Key suburbs in inner Sydney and Melbourne are showing significantly lower rates of Covid-19 vaccination rates than in surrounding suburbs but this appears to be due to a statistical anomaly.
These rates are being used to determine whether individuals will be able to enter South Australia in coming weeks and also whether South Australian residents will be required to quarantine upon returning from these areas in Sydney or Melbourne.
Our office wrote to NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard about this issue in August. You can read this letter here. Minister Hazzard's response indicated that COVID-19 vaccination statistics may not accurately reflect current suburb populations.
We have written a joint letter with Ellen Sandall MP (Member for Melbourne) and Tammy Franks MLC (SA), to Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt and the Premiers of NSW, Victoria and South Australia calling for an urgent review of the figures used to calculate quarantine percentages. You can read this letter here.
NSW Health is using the Australian Bureau of Statistics Estimated Resident Population 2019 data which has been calculated on the 2016 Census, to calculate its postcode Covid-19 vaccination rates.
The reason for the vaccination rate percentage anomalies appears to be directly linked to the changes in the student population in these suburbs as a result of the pandemic. There has been a significant change in students living in and close to our major universities in Sydney and Melbourne. In the suburbs of Darlington, Redfern, University of Sydney, Ultimo, Chippendale and Kensington in Sydney and in several inner-city suburbs in Melbourne such as the CBD, there are significant differences in vaccination rates compared with the overall city percentages.
The reasons for this are simple. Many students who may have been located in any of these suburbs on the 2016 Census night are no longer living in these suburbs due to the impacts of the pandemic. Some will have moved back to live with their families and will have been registered at these home addresses when getting vaccinated; whereas many international students are no longer based in these suburbs and may be still overseas waiting to return; or other students who lost casual work in these suburbs, will have moved out of the inner city due to increased rental stress. We are also aware that people have chosen to move away from the inner city in Melbourne to outer suburbs and rural areas as working from home became the norm.
Reports from the City of Melbourne indicate that international students had comprised a third of the CBD’s population prior to the pandemic. The City of Melbourne estimates around 28,000 international students have left the city during the pandemic. This situation is very similar in Sydney’s inner suburbs which house 4 major tertiary institutions and a number of large TAFE colleges. As mentioned above, the pandemic has given people the opportunity to move away from their workplaces and work remotely in suburban or rural areas, however these movements will not be shown statistically until after the next census.
Although NSW is currently registering close to a 90% double vaccination rate, the University of Sydney 2006 postcode area is registering a single and double vaccination rate of less than 10%; while the adjacent suburbs of Darlington, Chippendale and Golden Grove (postcode 2008) are currently registering a double vaccination rate of between 50-60%, while Redfern (postcode 2016), Camperdown (postcode 2050), and Ultimo (postcode 2007) are all indicating between 60-70%.
Additionally the suburbs of Elizabeth Bay, Kings Cross and HMAS Kuttabul (postcode 2011) are showing a 50-60% fully vaccinated rate which we believe is due to the fact that the large number of personnel who would have been based at the HMAS Kuttabul navy base in Potts Point on Census night, are no longer based onsite and would have been off site for the purposes of vaccinations.
We are calling on the federal Health Minister and the Premiers of NSW, VIC and SA, to urgently address these statistical anomalies in relation to interstate travel to and from South Australia so that residents from these cities will not be unfairly impacted by travel restrictions which are based on outdated population predictions which have skewed the actual vaccination rates in these areas.