So far in Australia, the more popular COVID-19 vaccine, Pfizer, is mostly only eligible for people over the age of 40.
All Aboriginal people aged 16 to 49 years of age, however, are eligible for the vaccine, due to a number of key risks the virus poses to these communities.
In the last 24 hours, it’s been revealed that an elite private boys’ school in Sydney’s lower north shore somehow saw its 163 Year 12 students, most of whom are not Indigenous, vaccinated. In fact, only four percent of St Joseph’s students are Indigenous.
In May, St Joseph’s College at Hunters Hill approached Sydney Local Health District seeking vaccinations for its boarding students from remote, regional and Indigenous communities.
The Chief Executive of Sydney Local Health District, Teresa Anderson announced in a media statement that an agreement was made that Aboriginal students would be vaccinated through the state system at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital’s vaccination hub.
Last night, Anderson’s statement admitted that “Through an error, the wider group of boarders in Year 12, a total of 163 students, were also vaccinated,” and that “Sydney Local Health District apologises for the error.”
Currently, only citizens aged between 40 and 60 are officially eligible to receive the Pfizer shot in the state, together with priority groups of other ages, including those working in health or quarantine front lines, people with disabilities and household contacts and Indigenous people.
In a statement released yesterday, the principal of St Joeseph’s College, Ross Tarlington, revealed that NSW Health approved the administration of the vaccines through Sydney Local Health District.
“The college proceeded to make arrangements for the administration of the approved vaccine at a centre determined by NSW Health,” he wrote.
“The approval and administration of the vaccine was endorsed and managed by NSW Health through the Sydney Local Health District. Acknowledging that the college does not determine vaccination priority, it welcomed the opportunity to offer the vaccine for students given the approvals provided and for the reasons listed above.”
“Given that we have a large number of boys who live in a residential community, which includes boys from rural, remote and indigenous communities,” he said.
“The college will continue to encourage and support members of its community to receive the appropriate vaccine as the opportunity arises.”
“St Joseph’s College takes advice from NSW Health and follows public health orders regarding the Covid-19 pandemic,” Tarlington continued.
“The safety of our school and local community remains a key priority in all college decision making.”
News.com reported that the Year 12 students received their first Pfizer vaccine at the end of the last school term, and were set to receive their second dose when school resumes next week.
The debacle has ignited online backlash, with calls of the ‘error’ signalling the school’s “height of privilege”.
David Littleproud, the Deputy Nationals leader, told the ABC he was not aware of the specifics of the vaccinations in this situation.
“On the face of it, before we jump to conclusions, I think it is important to get to the facts of what’s happened at that particular school, particularly when you have remote students boarding,” Littleproud said.
“I, myself, was a boarding school student and when they return into remote communities that don’t have the tertiary health facilities to support those communities, some of these things can put lives at risk.”
“So I would expect that the chief medical officer in NSW has made that determination on science and health factors rather than anything else.”
According to the head of the COVID-19 vaccine task force, people aged under 40 can expect to become eligible for a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine around “September or October”.
“It highlights the inequality that exists across our society. That sort of behaviour is not going to get us through a pandemic.”
Flohm said teachers’ requests for vaccine supplies had “fallen on deaf ears” but those from privileged backgrounds had been able to secure their shot.
“That is wrong on multiple levels,” she said. “Teachers would be feeling that, as would parents.”
Earlier this week, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said that supplies of COVID-19 vaccines were so low, Australians had been “chasing” jabs like characters in The Hunger Games films.
The federal government has yet to announce an offical date for when Australians under 40 would be eligible to access the Pfizer. They have however suggested that more vaccine supplies will become available from September.