The Aboriginal community of Yarrabah in Far North Queensland is planning a vaccine blitz after the region was thrown into a snap three-day lockdown over the weekend.
A taxi driver was infectious in the Cairns community for 10 days before testing positive, sparking the lockdown which is due to end at 4pm on Wednesday if there’s no further infections.
His infection has now been linked to a marine pilot who tested positive for the Delta variant last week.
Health authorities are urging residents to get tested as the list of Cairns exposure sites increases.
Dr Alister Keyser of the Apunipima Cape York Health Council located in Cairns says while he is not aware of any direct links to the Indigenous Yarrabah community, the case is very concerning.
“The community within Yarrabah is very close to Cairns, people come in and out of Cairns and they travel through out the region quite regularly, so, obviously if there is a case in Cairns it does pose a risk and it does make the community feel very anxious,” Dr Keyser said.
“We’ve always been worried that if we had an outbreak in a remote Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander community it would devastate that community, so, people are rightly concerned but I think people are trying to do the right thing as well, they’re following all of the Chief Health Officers advice and I know the teams doing the contact tracing would be working as hard as they can to follow those up.”
Dr Keyser says if we want to find a way out of the pandemic we will have to try and get as many of our community vaccinated as we possibly can.
It is understood that only two per cent of the Yarrabah community, which is only half an hour away from Cairns, have been fully vaccinated.
Proud Yued Noongar man, Dr Jason King is the Senior Medical Officer at Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services in Yarrabah, he told ABC News, the vaccine rollout in the community has suffered from changing vaccine advice.
“Our vaccine program really suffered due to the changes in advice and the community’s response to Astra Zeneca and we’ve been managing the changes in the advice from the ATAGI around that and passing that information onto the community so they can have access to right vaccine for them,” Dr King said.
Dr King also says there is a distinct lack of housing in the community which makes it impossible for people to isolate.
“We’ve only got 350 houses here for those 3,500 people, so, when we’re talking to people and asking them to isolate, actually it’s a physical impossibility.”
He says the local medical service is aiming to vaccinate 1,000 people in Yarrabah by the end of the week.