A majority of Indigenous Australians are at increased risk of severe COVID-19 illness and death due to health comorbidities such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.
An Australian National University study released on Thursday revealed 59 per cent of Indigenous adults are at increased risk of intensive care admission, ventilation or death linked to COVID-19.
The prevalence of illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer in the Indigenous population puts them at greater risk.
As well, more than one in three Indigenous adults smoke tobacco.
Three in five Indigenous adults – some 300,000 people – have at least one of these risk factors, the study found.
Indigenous Australians must therefore remain a priority group for COVID-19 vaccination, the researchers argue.
They should also be prioritised for early COVID-19 testing and medical aid, and helped to isolate while infectious.
Lead researcher Katie Thurber said Indigenous Australians with higher incomes, food security and healthcare access were much less vulnerable to severe COVID-19 outcomes.
Disadvantage and the legacies of colonisation and racism underpinned Indigenous Australia's broader coroanavirus risks.
“If all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples had access to these key determinants of health, it is likely that risk of severe illness from COVID-19 would be much lower in the population,” Dr Thurber said in a statement.
“Because of these long-term inequities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples must continue to be treated as one of the highest priority groups in our pandemic response.”
The study argued policies were required that would address the Indigenous health inequities at the heart of the issue.
These included access to housing and healthcare, including both vaccination and ongoing care of chronic conditions.
The federal government earlier this month allocated an extra $7.7 million to Indigenous peak health body NACCHO, on top of the $19 million already provided for NACCHO's COVID-19 response.
The government said the new funding would help all Indigenous Australians access vaccination by the end of the year.
Australia's vaccine rollout co-ordinator, Lieutenant General John Frewen, has previously expressed his concern about vaccine hesitancy in Indigenous communities.
Lt Gen Frewen blamed misinformation and AstraZeneca brand damage due to extremely rare blood clot side effects.
Some 256,000 Indigenous Australians eligible for the vaccine have received at least one dose so far, with 148,000 fully jabbed.Internet Explorer Channel Network