UWA researcher bolsters vaccine confidence in remote community

An East Kimberley GP and researcher from The University of Western Australia has fostered confidence among the residents of a remote Aboriginal community, enabling the vaccination of more than 76 per cent of the town’s eligible population in two days.

Gija woman Dr Catherine Engelke, a senior lecturer in UWA’s Medial School, has built lifelong ties with the Warmun Aboriginal community, in Western Australia’s Kimberley region.

“Continuity of care is ideal and something we have been trying to work on for a long time,” Dr Engelke said.

Dr Engelke worked closely with Warmun’s council and provided a familiar voice to residents, which helped coordinate vaccine messaging and allowed people to make an informed decision.

“Having that transparency of information from a team that they trust certainly made a difference,” she said. “They can also see people haven’t had the reactions they believed they were going to.”

Warmun resident and community chairperson Madeline Purdie said Dr Engelke was an inspiring voice among the community and helped people understand that the vaccine was safe.

“They’ve got a lot of trust for her because she speaks with them in a way they can understand, especially our elders,” Ms Purdie said.

“They were hearing different things on social media, hearing about blood clots and people dying.”

According to Ms Purdie, local leadership and a good relationship with community medical professionals were the key elements behind the vaccine success.

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