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Question: Regional Vaccine Rollout

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (14:50): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question to the Minister for Health and Wellbeing on the topic of vaccination rates in regional South Australia.

Leave granted.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I have been contacted by concerned constituents who live in regional areas and country towns in South Australia with low vaccination rates. They are concerned how they will fare once we open the borders to interstate travellers, who frequently come through these towns. One of these towns is Peterborough, which is currently only at 58 per cent fully vaccinated. People in this town not only already struggle to access basic healthcare services and hospitals and have lost their GP but are deeply concerned about the spread of COVID-19 in their community.

These concerns are further compounded by anti-vax conspiracy theories being letterboxed in the town. With the local pop-up vaccination clinic, there is a hesitancy because members of the community don't always have access to a medical professional there that they trust in a pop-up setting to discuss those concerns, particularly given the nature of the anti-vax letterboxing. My questions to the minister are:

1. How will those in rural South Australia, such as those in Peterborough, 'talk to their GP' about their concerns in these areas when they don't have a local GP and struggle to even have locums available?

2. What is SA Health doing to combat this anti-vaccination misinformation conspiracy theory material being letterboxed in this and other towns?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (14:52): In relation to the issue of GPs at Peterborough, I have relatively recently met with the Mayor of Peterborough and the local member, the Hon. Dan van Holst Pellekaan. My understanding is there are discussions going on between the local health network and the local health medical practice, which I think is called Goyder's Line Medical practice. There were moves underway to try to continue a GP service. I think the arrangements are at least to the end of February, but certainly there have been discussions with the network.

In terms of the regional vaccination program, all of our local health networks are actively involved in providing vaccines in their local areas, and there is significant activity underway not only with local clinics in terms of hospital-based and community-based clinics but also with mobile vaccination vans. Honourable members will recall that I highlighted the work being done in the northern area using mobile vans, and that is also continuing across country South Australia as well.

The honourable member raises the issue of dealing with misinformation. One of the key strategies of the government has been to deploy Wellbeing SA to try to identify issues in low uptake communities and respond to them. One of those responses is building vaccine confidence in the community, which is a training program facilitated by Professor Katina D'Onise, a leading public health clinicians who is known to this house. She was one of the lead advisers on the termination of pregnancy legislation.

Over 500 people have registered for this training. It is particularly targeted at CALD communities and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. It would be fair to say that there is misinformation being disseminated right across the community, but much of the training work, as I understand it, that the honourable professor is doing is to try to equip leaders to take the message into their own communities.

We will continue to try to deal with misinformation. We will continue to try to have strategies which connect with communities. For example, this coming weekend there is a family fun day, which is seeking to engage the Aboriginal community. There has been a very good take-up of Bunning's-based pop-up clinics and also—

The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink: A snag and a jab.

The Hon. S.G. WADE: Have a snag with your vax, or whatever the expression is. I think it is also important to stress that what is becoming evident in a number of these communities is that the conversation is not a quick one. Often there will need to be information going into communities that there might need to be an ongoing conversation until the family or even the community makes a decision.

I suppose from a European cultural point of view, we tend to see vaccination as an individual decision but certainly for a number of these communities it is actually a collective decision, a community decision. You need to engage the family and the community, and that conversation may take time.

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