While nearly 80 per cent of New South Wales residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and the state gears up for a further easing of restrictions on Monday, there are fears some Riverina local government areas are falling behind.
As of Sunday, the Leeton, Murrumbidgee, Junee and Edward River LGAs all had fully-vaccinated rates of less than 60 per cent.
Leeton is almost at 60 per cent fully vaccinated, at 59.9 per cent, whilst Edward River is trailing behind at 47.7 per cent double-dosed.
The Murrumbidgee Local Health District's public health director Tracey Oakman said that vaccination rates do vary from LGA to LGA and are "continually being assessed".
"When we see an outbreak in an area where the vaccination rates may be less than ideal, that's taken in as a factor as to the response that occurs there," she added.
Ms Oakman also assured that staffing rates at Deniliquin Hospital are "fine", after the Edward River LGA has recorded nine COVID cases since the current outbreak began.
The cluster has prompted calls for increased vaccination in and around Deniliquin, especially as a number of staff at the hospital have had to step down after not getting vaccinated before the NSW Health mandate came into effect.
"Where staff had to be furloughed or did not work because of their vaccination status, Murrumbidgee either got in locums or got other health service staff to work there," Ms Oakman said.
Some Riverina LGAs are getting vaccinated against COVID at high rates. The Hay, Cootamundra-Gundagai and Hilltops LGAs all have a single-dose vaccination rate of over 95 per cent.
Wagga has a first dose rate of 90 per cent, but the second dose rate is slightly lower at 67.2 per cent.
The lower vaccination rates in some regional areas has prompted the state government to push back the date of regional travel.
Originally expected to return when NSW hit 80 per cent fully vaccinated, travel between the regions and Greater Sydney has been pushed back further to November 1 "to allow people in the regions more time to receive their second vaccine," a statement from the Premier read.
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Wagga MP Joe McGirr welcomed the move and said it was a "sensible decision by the government".
"The priority has to be to keep our community safe and as Sydney opens up and we now have the ACT out of lockdown, we are at greater risk," he said.
Dr McGirr is "worried" that Wagga's vaccination rate isn't as good as Sydney, saying that until we get our vaccination rates up, "we are vulnerable".
"It's been a combination of supply and it's been a combination of not having the same number of COVID cases as in Sydney and not having had as severe lockdowns," Dr McGirr said.
He said that Batlow in the Snowy Valleys is one area of concern in terms of vaccine uptake.
"A lot of the hesitancy that was there before has been overcome," Dr McGirr said.
"People are recognising that it is safe and effective and are happy to go ahead."
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