By Raquel Mustillo
GRANT District Council has backed suggestions that vaccination rates in the sprawling rural area could be “artificially low” due to residents registering their address as a Mount Gambier post office (PO) box.
According to Federal Government data, the council’s vaccination rate is the lowest in the country, with just 20.8 per cent of first dose vaccines administered and 11.5 per cent of Grant’s 7072 population fully vaccinated.
At a press conference held earlier this week, South Australian chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier said the figures “didn’t really make a lot of sense” due to the high level of vaccinated Mount Gambier City Council ratepayers.
Federal Government data shows of Mount Gambier City Council’s 21,802 residents, 81.4 per cent have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccination, with 50.7 per cent of the population fully vaccinated.
“Looking into this in more detail… our vaccine team suggested that it may be because people in Grant actually register their postcode as a PO Box,” Prof Spurrier said at the press conference.
“Their address might be a PO Box in Mount Gambier.
“It may look artificially low and we’re just going to delve into that in a little bit more detail.”
Grant District mayor Richard Sage said further investigations will be undertaken to determine whether addresses are contributing to the purportedly low vaccination rate.
In a statement, Mr Sage was cited as being hopeful that “additional information will be released which will identify a more accurate figure for vaccination rates for the District Council of Grant area”.
Mr Sage said the Port MacDonnell Pharmacy – which is the only location within the council area that is administering Covid-19 vaccinations -had started an outreach service to outlying townships, with bookings of eight or more people.
Member for Barker Tony Pasin acknowledged the possibility that postal addresses may have an impact on the data, but said the South East region had a much lower rate of vaccination than the rest of Australia as well as South Australia.
“It is imperative that we get these vaccination rates up,” he said.
“This is why I’ve previously asked the State Government to increase supply of vaccine into the lower South East.
“The latest case has highlighted that the South East community is at risk and the best way to lower this risk is to be vaccinated.
“It’s the best way to protect you, your family and the wider community from serious illness and death.”
Mr Pasin has previously called on Premier Steven Marshall to establish a pop-up vaccination clinic in either Port MacDonnell or Tarpeena to increase vaccine availability in the council district.
The state’s health department said planning was underway to establish pop-up, community-based clinics within the region to facilitate greater access to vaccines, with more detail expected to be released in coming weeks.
In a statement, a SA Health spokesperson said an additional 50 appointments had been added at the Mount Gambier Vaccination Clinic each day this week, which will increase to more than 100 appointments as of tomorrow (Saturday).
“In addition, up to five additional Registered Nurses will commence this week to support the increased demand,” the statement said.
“Extended vaccination clinic hours and times will be confirmed once the additional nurses are on site, with new vaccination clinic also being explored”.