New push to get Indigenous people jabbed amid misinformation campaign
7 September 2021 at 4:36 pm
“I remain very concerned about reports that vaccines are being rejected as a result of conspiracies and misinformation stoking fear and doubt”
The federal government is working with Indigenous groups, religious leaders and medical professionals to try and boost vaccination rates in Aboriginal communities, which have been targeted by anti-vaccination conspiracy theories.
Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt and National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) CEO Pat Turner met with a group of respected pastors and remote medical leaders on Friday.
This group warned that conspiracies and misinformation were spreading fear of COVID-19 vaccines in vulnerable communities.
According to an ABC report, American-based preachers have been distributing emails and videos reaching the Kimberley that say the infernal spirit of Lucifer is being injected into people who get vaccinated.
Turner said while social media drove anti-vax messaging in urban areas, word-of-mouth was also incredibly powerful in regional and remote areas, which meant positive messaging coming from pastors was key.
Minister Wyatt said the meeting was about getting religious leaders’ advice on how to address vaccine hesitancy and talk about people’s safety in a way that was respectful of Indigenous people’s beliefs.
“Indigenous vaccination rates are increasing but I remain very concerned about reports that vaccines are being rejected as a result of conspiracies and misinformation stoking fear and doubt,” Wyatt said.
“Our spiritual leaders will be crucial in ensuring positive messages succeed. To that end, uniting faith-based and medical messaging will be key to stamping out the dangerous rhetoric and [boosting] vaccine uptake in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.”
Indigenous Labor Senator Pat Dodson recently attacked fringe Christian organisations for promoting anti-vaccination rhetoric in remote Western Australia.
He said they had fuelled vaccine hesitancy in the Kimberley and Pilbara, where only around 15 per cent of people were fully vaccinated.
Turner said it was vital for leaders to work out how best to change the minds of people reluctant to get vaccinated.
“We need to be aiming towards 100 per cent vaccination rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and it’s going to be very challenging in the face of this dangerous misinformation,” Turner said.
The group is expected to meet again this week to develop and roll out messaging encouraging people to get jabbed.