Misinformation drives vaccine hesitancy in remote Indigenous communities

Shutterstock: image caption: by ffikretow

Conspiracy theories targeting Indigenous Australians has contributed to the slow rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in isolated communities. With low COVID-19 infection rates and no recorded deaths in Indigenous communities – 150 infections – misinformation has contributed to a sense of complacency in isolated regions. False claims and overhyping of a small number of blood clots linked to the vaccine being shared across social media has created a sense of fear in certain communities and added to a hesitancy to receive the jab.

Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, told the Wire that the relative security of Indigenous communities from the virus and the prevalence of conspiracy theories online has increased vaccine hesitancy in isolated regions.
“Anybody who has access to Facebook or social media is going to be reading messages that have been put up by anti-vaxers and in one case a prayer group, talking about what they believe is a concern when in fact vaccines are made all in the same way.”

Vaccine supply issues have further added to the challenges of distributing the jab to remote Indigenous communities. A spokesman for Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory delivering pro-vaccination campaigns in the Northern Territory said the shortage in supply was a leading cause for low vaccination rates in remote communities.
“The real issue is not vaccine caution, but lack of supply. Some major Aboriginal communities are yet to receive a single dose, and in others, there is nowhere near enough.”

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