The Wollongong Local Government Area is dead last in our region for vaccination rates, but it's not because we have a larger-than-normal population of vaccine-hesitant people.
It's likely due to a combination of factors, including age, socio-economic status and the cliched but true stereotype of older people "waiting for Pfizer".
Coordinare is the South Eastern NSW Primary Health Network, and covers the area from Helensburgh past Eden to the Victorian border, and inland to Cooma/Monaro, Queanbeyan, Yass and Goulburn.
Vaccination rates for LGAs in that area differ.
Currently, Wollongong has 78 per cent of residents fully vaccinated, and 90 per cent have received their first dose.
Shellharbour has 82 per cent of residents fully vaccinated and 95 per cent have received their first dose.
Slightly less than 86 per cent of Kiama residents are fully vaccinated, and 95 per cent have received at least one dose. In the Shoalhaven 81 per cent of residents are fully vaccinated, and 95 per cent have received at least one dose.
Linda Livingstone, director of engagement, said there were a number of different reasons Wollongong lags behind areas such as the Shoalhaven, who received access to vaccines much later.
"Communities can be very unique in how they respond to challenges and we are speculating based on anecdotal evidence," she said.
"Wollongong has a younger population who have only had vaccine access more recently, while Kiama has a larger aged population who have been eligible for the vaccine for longer.
"We've also reached out to a number of vulnerable groups of people in Wollongong, and the percentage of people who have received their first dose has risen to 90.3 per cent in just a few weeks, which is huge."
Ms Livingstone said vulnerable groups included people who are on a low income, people with a disability, and people who don't speak English fluently.
"There are also a lot of people who have been homeschooling children and can't leave them alone to attend a vaccination appointment," she said.
"All our data shows these communities are now accessing vaccinations, and within a few weeks we should have rates that are the same as other LGAs in our region."
Professor Kathy Eagar, director of the Australian Health Services Research Institute, agreed that age and socioeconomic status played a role in vaccine uptake.
"Worse off areas have the lowest vaccination rates and the highest COVID rates," she said.
"The underlying factor driving both is differences in socioeconomic status. These differences drive differences in health literacy and result in vaccine inequity.
"Wollongong also has more people in their late teens and early 20s because of the number of university students. This age cohort has the lowest vaccination rate overall."
Prof Eagar said it was most important that all regions continue to work towards a vaccination rate of more than 95 per cent.
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