Newcastle and Hunter Indigenous COVID-19 vaccination rate up, but still below NSW average

COVID-19 vaccination coverage in the Hunter's Aboriginal population has grown 10 percentage points in a week.

Government figures show almost two thirds, or 65.6 per cent, of the region's 21,000 indigenous people aged 15 and over have received both doses. The figure compares to a 75 per cent vaccination rate in the overall population aged 16 and over.

The first-dose vaccination rate for the indigenous population has risen only marginally, from 79.2 to 82.8 per cent, in the past week.

In the general Hunter population, more than 95 per cent of people aged 16 and over have received at least one dose.

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Meanwhile, the Hunter's public health controller fears chains of virus transmission may be going undetected due to a shortfall in testing.

Active cases in the Hunter have slipped below 1000, but authorities in the region say they are concerned after Hunter New England daily case count jumped back up to 74 on Thursday.

Only South Western Sydney's 80 exceeded the Hunter figure, which made up a fifth of the NSW total of 372 local infections.

NSW Health said one more person had died with COVID-19, a man in his 50s from south-east Sydney who had received one dose of vaccine.

Health authorities said 30 of the Hunter cases were infectious in the community and the isolation status of another 30 was unknown.

"With 74 new COVID-19 cases in the Hunter New England area, I think we have every reason to be concerned, particularly if we follow the pattern that we've seen in the last two weeks with a large proportion of the cases actually unlinked," HNEH's Dr David Durrheim said.

"This means that we don't know what their source was, and this really says that there are chains of transmission that are busy circulating in our community and we're not finding them because we're not looking.

"We're not testing enough. We need to test whenever there's symptoms. This is the way that we'll prevent spread in our communities and keep our families, keep our friends, keep vulnerable communities safe."

The health district is treating 23 of its 940 active cases in hospital. Only three require intensive care.

This story Indigenous vax rate up but still below average first appeared on Newcastle Herald.