By Julie Owens

10 August 2021

Last week the Federal Government released data on vaccination rates across the country.

The data revealed that Parramatta has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Sydney – just 35.1% of residents over 15 have had their first dose and only 17.7% of us are fully vaccinated.

We came in just behind south west Sydney including Fairfield, where the vaccination rates are 33.1% (first dose) and 14.6% (fully vaccinated) and the inner south west including Canterbury-Bankstown, where the rates are 33.5% and 16.1%.

This is not a coincidence. All the ‘Local Government areas of concern’ facing the harshest lockdown restrictions recorded lower vaccination rates than the rest of Sydney.

The contrast with places like the North Shore, where more than half the residents have had their first dose and 26.9% are fully vaccinated, is stark.

There’s a straightforward explanation for this. People in Western Sydney are younger on average than people in parts of Sydney with higher vaccination rates.

In Parramatta, more than half the population is under 40, meaning most of us weren’t eligible to get a first dose until after the current lockdown started and the health advice on AstraZeneca changed.

Prioritising the most vulnerable members of the community in the vaccine rollout – seniors, people living in aged and disability care and frontline workers – was and is the right thing to do.

The problem is, the Morrison Government has bungled this rollout so badly that we are now several months behind the original vaccination targets and Western Sydney has been left behind.

My office has been inundated with calls from people who are confused about the health advice on AstraZeneca because Scott Morrison failed to communicate it clearly in a stream of panicky late night press conferences.

We’ve also heard from many people who are struggling to navigate the government’s website to book an appointment for Pfizer or AstraZeneca.

It seems that GP clinics are not accepting online bookings for new patients, so people who can’t get the vaccine from their usual GP face an uphill battle.

Walk-in vaccination clinics have started to appear in Western Sydney (not Parramatta) and many local pharmacies are now taking bookings for AstraZeneca.

Sadly, the same shortages that have plagued GPs throughout this rollout are also affecting pharmacies. As of the end of last week, less than half of the pharmacies approved to administer the vaccine are ‘online’ and pharmacies in COVID hotspots are reporting a two week wait to receive vaccine supplies.

Scott Morrison waited until December 2020 to ink a deal with Pfizer when other countries were securing supplies in June. Now, after condemning lockdowns, he’s telling us they will continue until 70%-80% of the eligible population is vaccinated.

This is a tall order when we are still relying on a leaky hotel quarantine system, we’re at the back of the queue for Pfizer, and the government is still failing to get the supplies we do have where they’re most needed.

The NSW Premier has asked us to “keep trying” to get the jab. Thanks to the Morrison Government, that seems to be all we can do.