This week Hepburn Shire is 12th in full vaccinations and 21st for the first dose out of 79 local government areas. Locally, first doses have reached 65 percent and 42 percent of Shire residents are fully vaccinated.

There is still some way to go, but this is a great effort by the local community. To some extent, it also reflects the community demographic – Hepburn Shire has a relatively large proportion of elderly adults who had earlier access to the vaccine.

There is now a significant divide between metropolitan and rural areas and between rich and poor areas (at least in Melbourne).

Early on in the vaccination program vaccinations were prioritised for the most vulnerable and for front line workers. Later the focus shifted to older people. Now the focus is on younger adults. Soon there will be debate about preschool and primary school children.

There has been much less focus on disadvantaged communities and we have seen shockingly low rates for vulnerable indigenous communities, although Victoria has done better for these communities than other States.

First dose vaccination rates in Victoria are now about 60 percent. Nearly 37 percent of Victorians are fully vaccinated.

But averages hide large differences across population groups. Queenscliffe has twice the first dose vaccination rate of Broadmeadows (Hume).

Generally younger, poorer, metropolitan areas have lower vaccination rates. On average rural communities are older than metropolitan communities, so more people have already been vaccinated – 63 percent have had a first dose and 39 percent are fully vaccinated, compared with 54 and 33 percent in metropolitan areas.
Lower socioeconomic local government areas have significantly lower vaccination rates, particularly in metropolitan Melbourne.The three metropolitan local government areas with the lowest socioeconomic status, Greater Dandenong, Brimbank and Hume have first dose rates in the low to mid 40 percent range. Vaccination rates in the three wealthiest areas, Nillumbik, Bayside and Boroondara are 20 percent higher.The availability of GPs, health services, language, culture and social and community networks all affect vaccination rates. Add to that work pressures and personal costs associated with vaccination. It’s harder to find information and get vaccinated in poorer communities.

This  means it’s important to focus the message, engage communities and make vaccination delivery flexible, practical and easy for more disadvantaged communities.


Ideally we would wait until everyone has had an opportunity to be vaccinated before lifting restrictions.

But Delta has made it much more difficult to manage the pandemic with testing, tracing, isolation and quarantine. Even hard lockdowns probably won’t work once the virus gets beyond 50 to 100 cases per day. The tracing teams quickly get overwhelmed as has happened in New South Wales and now in Victoria.

As a result, Victoria and New South Wales have given up trying to get back to COVID zero and the Morrison Government is warning that we are going to have to learn to live with COVID.

There is now enormous pressure to lift restrictions at least in New South Wales even though case rates are high and hospitals are already under pressure. It remains to be seen whether Victoria and the ACT can hold the rapid rise of cases.

As restrictions lift, the burden will fall on the unvaccinated. When vaccination rates vary across communities that means the burden won’t be fairly and evenly spread. At the moment poorer, younger, more diverse communities have relatively lower vaccination rates and will end up with more infections, hospitalisations and death.

We have already seen the recent woeful performance in delivering vaccinations for vulnerable, indigenous communities in rural New South Wales. It would be a terrible outcome if younger, poorer, more diverse communities end up bearing the brunt of the pandemic as pressure to open up grows.

There is not much time to fix the growing vaccine divide.


Local COVID vaccinations are now available at Blooms The Chemist in Vincent Street, Daylesford. Phone 5348 2301 to make an appointment. Vaccinations are also available at Springs Medical Centre. Book online ( or call 5348 2227 to make an appointment.