Many Aboriginal people in NSW receive primary health care through their GP and this may be how they choose to access the COVID-19 vaccine. General practices therefore play an important role in vaccination, and in preventing and managing the spread of viruses such as COVID-19 in Aboriginal communities.

The COVID-19 vaccines used in Australia are safe and effective, and this page will help you support your Aboriginal patients through their decision-making journey.

On this page

Aboriginal people are a priority group for COVID-19 vaccination

Priority vaccination is important to ensure Aboriginal people have strong vaccination protection against COVID-19 in NSW.

All Aboriginal people aged 5 years and over are eligible and are a priority group for free COVID-19 vaccination by the Australian Government.

Why it's important to prioritise vaccination for Aboriginal people

  • Aboriginal people have a greater risk of developing serious illness from COVID-19. This may be due to higher rates of chronic health conditions, and social determinants which amplify the risk of disease.
  • The same social determinants of health affecting Aboriginal peoples' access to general healthcare are also likely to affect access to COVID-19 vaccination.
  • Priority vaccination for Aboriginal people is important to ensure equitable vaccination coverage and keep the whole NSW population safe.

COVID-19 vaccinations (including boosters)

Aboriginal people are a priority group for COVID-19 primary doses and boosters due to increased risk from the viruses. Primary courses of COVID-19 vaccines are recommended for all Aboriginal people aged 5 years and older, including children aged 5 – 11 years.

COVID-19 first booster doses are recommended for people 16 years and over and can be given 3 months after a second vaccination (or 3 months after a confirmed COVID-19 infection).

An additional booster (fourth dose) is now strongly recommended for all people aged 50 and over and people at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

The additional booster is also available for people aged 30 and over.

People at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19

Other groups of people who are at higher risk of severe illness are also eligible for an additional COVID-19 booster, including:

For more information, the latest clinical guidance for COVID-19 vaccines, can be found on the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care website.

Checklist for COVID-19 vaccination for Aboriginal patients

We've developed a useful checklist to help you promote vaccination to Aboriginal patients:

  • Reach out to your Aboriginal patients, and their parents/carers, and offer to book COVID-19 vaccination appointments for all eligible family/household members, including booster vaccinations for those who are eligible.

    Use a culturally appropriate SMS for some, a phone call for others. It is helpful to contact your Aboriginal patients again, even if you have previously contacted them. A consistent recommendation from a healthcare professional plays an important role in improving vaccination uptake.

    Consider including web links to patient COVID-19 vaccine information in your SMS messages, such as these fact sheets or website.

  • Use your practice software prompts and action lists to identify Aboriginal patients during consultations and ask if they have any questions about COVID-19 vaccination.

    Access information to help you discuss COVID-19 vaccination with Aboriginal people, and consider using the decision-making tool during consultations with Aboriginal patients.

    Aboriginal Health Workers in local Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services can also support conversations about COVID-19 vaccination.

  • Display COVID-19 vaccination resources, including videos, featuring Aboriginal people in your waiting room. Fact sheets designed for Aboriginal people also help.

    NSW Health's Yarn-Up Q&A video series is popular and our recent 2022 Yarn Up features guests Dr Jan Fizzell and Dr Marilyn Clarke on how to stay safe and strong.

    Post about vaccination, and how it benefits Aboriginal people and the community, on your website and social media. You can share posts from the NSW Health pages (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok) or create your own using our social tiles and videos.

  • Making your practice inclusive and welcoming for Aboriginal people encourages self-identification (for COVID-19 vaccination and other visits). These practical steps will help you provide culturally safe healthcare.

    You can also undertake Aboriginal cultural safety and awareness training to support your delivery of culturally safe health care.

  • The MBS item number (90005), combined with an assessment to determine a patient's suitability and administering the COVID-19 vaccine, makes a home-visit delivery model more feasible to reach your patients who have carer responsibilities, transportation or mobility issues.

  • COVID-19 information for Aboriginal people in NSW is available on the NSW Government website.

    The NSW Health website has tips for managing stress and a video about connection to culture for wellbeing.

    For more wellbeing resources for Aboriginal people visit WellMob.

    If your patients are experiencing stress or need support due to COVID-19, help is available by calling the Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support line on 1800 512 348 or visiting Coronavirus - Beyond Blue.

  • If you're not providing COVID-19 vaccination, or don't have the patient's preferred vaccine available, refer your Aboriginal patient to a local Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service, an Aboriginal-specific Local Health District service or a local pharmacy vaccine provider. This may involve helping your patient make an appointment.

    It is important to support Aboriginal patients with a referral so the opportunity for them to get vaccinated for COVID-19 is not missed.

  • Identifying Aboriginal patients and recording Aboriginal status is important to ensure a complete patient record, and will help Aboriginal people access COVID-19 vaccination, or other early treatments they might be eligible for, including COVID-19 antiviral medicine.

    To identify Aboriginal patients, ask all patients the standard identification question:

    "Are you of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin" – this printable reminder will keep identification of Aboriginal people front of mind.

    If required, the RACGP suggest using the following statement to preface the question:

    "The following information will assist in the planning and provision of appropriate and improved healthcare and services so that we can provide the best care possible".

    The identification question should be asked irrespective of appearance, country of birth and whether the patient or their family are known to staff. All patients have a right to freely respond to the question and are not required to answer.

    Further information is available in the video Identifying Aboriginal patients in your general practice.

    For practical examples on asking the question, watch the Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network video.

    Identifying Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients benefits both your patients and your practice:

    You can also undertake cultural safety and awareness training that includes information on how to ask the Aboriginal patient identification question.

    For more information see RACGP recommendations and Standards for General Practice – 5th Edition (C7.1E).

  • All staff working in general practice can benefit from Aboriginal cultural safety and awareness training, including practice nurses, practice managers and receptionists.

    The training helps develop an understanding of Aboriginal culture and history, and their relationship to health, to further improve the health outcomes of Aboriginal people, and how to incorporate what you have gained into your own professional practice. You will learn why it is important to ask the standard Aboriginal identification question and how to make your practice more welcoming and inclusive for Aboriginal people.

    Aboriginal cultural safety and awareness training is available online for:

    Your local PHN might also offer cultural safety and awareness training.

Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services

An Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service near you is likely to be providing COVID-19 vaccination and have Aboriginal Health Workers who can support you and your Aboriginal patients.

Infection control

Implementing and following infection prevention and control methods such as pre-screening patients before they attend appointments, referring symptomatic patients for PCR (nose and throat swab) testing, wearing appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), the use of routine surveillance rapid antigen tests for staff and asymptomatic patients, wearing masks, washing your hands and using hand sanitiser, and staying home and getting tested if you are sick can all help to stop transmission of COVID-19.

Information about COVID-19 screening at NSW Health facilities is regularly updated depending on the current situation in NSW, so check back regularly. See also the Clinical Excellent Commission's COVID-19 Infection Prevention and Control Manual for acute and non-acute healthcare settings for further information on infection prevention and control.

Other information and resources

For more COVID-19 information, updates and patient resources for Aboriginal people and communities visit:

If you have any questions or would like more resources to support Aboriginal people around COVID-19 vaccination, please contact the Centre for Aboriginal Health - NSW Health.

Current as at: Tuesday 2 May 2023
Contact page owner: Health Protection NSW