A new Cancer Australia initiative is encouraging Aboriginal people who have been impacted by cancer to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Facts on the Vax campaign is being rolled out to both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal healthcare workers, across social media, and on the Cancer Australia website.

Cancer Australia chief executive Professor Dorothy Keefe said the campaign hopes to cut through misinformation and answer frequently asked questions about the vaccine.

“The evidence is really strong that having the vaccine is a good thing,” Professor Keefe told NIT.

“We really want to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to hear the real truth and hear the real evidence and have their questions answered.

“People can know that this is evidence-based, and that this is a source of reliable information.”

The campaign includes a short, animated video and easy-to-understand factsheets about vaccination for Aboriginal people with cancer, their loved ones and health workers working with Aboriginal people.

Every year approximately 1,400 Indigenous Australians are diagnosed with cancer, and as part of the COVID-19 roll out, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with cancer are eligible to receive a free COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr Jason Agostino from the National Aboriginal Controlled Community Health Organisation says it’s important that people have access to good quality information about vaccines.

“There’s been a lot of information out there that has scared people and I think for a lot of people, the possible harms of the vaccine are very present in their mind and the benefits from the vaccine seem really distant,” he said.

He says Aboriginal people impacted by cancer are very vulnerable to the virus.

“Vaccinations are important for everyone but for people with cancer, their immune system’s ability to fight COVID-19 might be impaired, either because of the type of cancer or the type of treatment that they’ve been receiving,” Dr Agostino said.

“It’s really important that we give them all the protection we can and vaccines are a part of that.”

Professor Keefe expects the campaign to be well supported by the public.

“We find that when we do those social media campaigns and tweet about it, the community takes these sort of videos up very well,” she said.

“So, we’re going to spread it in as many ways as we possibly can.”

Dr Agostino says people with concerns about the vaccine should talk to a trusted medical professional.

“There’s so much information out there, it’s hard for people to navigate that, but what I think makes the biggest difference is going to a health professional that you trust, whether that’s a local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander health worker or nurse or doctor, talk to them about what you’re worried about.”

By Sarah Smit