Elders warn homeless are struggling to get vaccines

TWO of Perth’s most senior Noongar elders have urged the McGowan government to ramp up support so Indigenous people who are homeless have better access to Covid vaccinations.

Launching their campaign from Pioneer Park, site of the “Tent City” protest a year ago, former Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service CEO Ted Wilkes and Ngalla Maya Aboriginal Corporation CEO Mervyn Eades said they have grave concerns for the 40 per cent of homeless people who are Indigenous.

They were joined by long-term Indigenous housing and health advocate Betsy Buchanan.

The trio have written to Mr McGowan warning of systemic issues keeping Indigenous people from being vaccinated.

“One temporary accommodation provider reports that just 31 per cent of its residents are vaccinated,” they wrote.

“Of the remaining 69 per cent, the provider report that 38 per cent wish to be vaccinated but have been unable thus far to access it, while the remaining 31 per cent are unvaccinated and wish to remain so.

“Anecdotal reports and direct communication from service providers, healthcare workers and homeless people themselves suggests a comparable rate.

“Some homeless people in the Perth CBD have reported that they do not know where to go to get vaccinated although they are extremely anxious to access vaccination.

“Others have reported that long queues at centres offering vaccination such as the Aboriginal Medical Service have deterred them from getting vaccinations.

“We are concerned that low vaccination rates of approximately 30 – 40 per cent present a heightened risk given that this cohort is especially vulnerable to Covid-19, many with pre-existing health conditions including respiratory and/or cardiovascular co-morbidities.

“An unvaccinated, highly transient population in the heart of WA’s biggest population centre is also a significant risk for increasing community transmission of Covid-19 to other parts of the community.”

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