A former City councillor has called for local leaders, including the council and chamber of commerce, to take a bigger role in promoting vaccinations.
Steve Douglas, who opted not to nominate for the weekend’s City of Greater Geraldton elections after eight years on the council, said after speaking to a fellow member of the Australian Coastal Council from Ballina in NSW, Sharon Cadwallader, about the success of their local vaccine push, a similar campaign was needed to increase Geraldton’s jab rate.
As of October 11, 47 per cent of Geraldton residents aged 15 and over had received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccination, with 67.5 per cent having received at least one dose.
The rate is slightly below the State average, which is one of the lowest in the country, with 54.7 per cent of over-16s double-vaccinated and 73.36 per cent having had at least one jab.
Mr Douglas said he was inspired by the success of Ballina’s Community with Immunity campaign, when its first dose rate jumped from under 60 per cent to more than 90 per cent in three months.
Ballina has a population comparable to Greater Geraldton of just over 37,000, with 63.3 per cent of people having received both vaccine doses, and is leading vaccination rates in both categories across the Northern Rivers region, which comprises seven local governments including Byron, Lismore and Tenterfield.
“I’d like to call on key community leaders, our MPs, the chamber and council to consider what we can do to increase Geraldton’s vaccination rates in order to provide protection and security going forward against lockdown and restrictions when we inevitably open the border and the virus hits WA,” he said.
“WA has been slow on the uptake because of complacency and I don’t think the State Government message necessarily resonates locally.
“It’s like the environmental principle of ‘think global, act local.’” Let’s make Geraldton a community with immunity.”
Earlier this month, Premier Mark McGowan said he would consider setting a date for reopening WA’s hard border with NSW and Victoria about two months after the State reached 80-90 per cent vaccination, warning “removing our hard border too early would mean importing the virus, which could see Western Australians die”.
Mid West Chamber of Commerce chief executive Jo Fabling said the chamber would be supportive of a local campaign, with vaccinations an integral step to protect vulnerable groups in the community including Indigenous populations, and the opening of WA’s border vital to addressing the skills and staff shortage at local businesses.
MLA Colin de Grussa also supported the idea, saying he thought localising such a campaign would appear to have merit as targeted messaging could address the particular needs of the community.
A State Government spokesperson said it would welcome any opportunities for businesses and local leaders to promote the vaccination rollout.
“WA’s vaccination rate has excellent momentum and we must do everything possible to keep it going,” they said.
But City of Greater Geraldton Mayor Shane Van Styn said the State and Federal Governments should remain responsible for vaccine messaging.
“I am double-vaccinated, and I know all of CGG’s directors and executive support staff are as well, so we are supportive of vaccinations,” he said.
“The State and Federal Governments are responsible for maintaining the distribution of clear and accurate information, and adding local messaging could unintentionally provide incorrect health advice.
“Where vaccines are available is changing daily, so the State Government should take the lead.”
Western Australia Local Government Association chief executive Nick Sloan said WALGA and all member local governments were committed to working with the State on promoting and supporting the State’s vaccination program.