Hunter vaccination coverage is lagging more than 20 percentage points behind rates in some Sydney suburbs, raising fears about how communities will cope when regional travel resumes.
The latest round of data from the federal government shows Newcastle and Lake Macquarie had a first-dose adult vaccination rate of 66.9 per cent on Sunday and double-dose rate of 38.6 per cent.
The rest of the Hunter, excluding the two metropolitan local government areas, had a first-dose rate of 64 per cent and 34.2 per cent double-dose coverage, the fourth lowest figure in the state.
The NSW-wide vaccination rate on Monday was 74 per cent for first doses and 41 per cent for second doses.
The Hunter's first-dose rates are a long way behind those in many parts of Sydney, including Baulkham Hills (86 per cent), Blacktown (86) and Sutherland (81). Nine out of 14 areas in regional NSW have single-dose rates below 70 per cent, compared with just one out of 14 in Sydney.
Baulkham Hills and North Sydney have double-dose rates above 50 per cent, compared with less than 30 per cent in the Cessnock area.
Second-dose vaccine coverage grew 8.8 per cent in the Hunter and 11.3 per cent in Baulkham Hills in the two weeks to September 5.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the uneven rollout across the state was "nobody's fault" and was due to older populations having earlier access to vaccines and limited supplies of Pfizer.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian has emphasised that the 70 and 80 per cent targets for easing restrictions will be based on the statewide double-dose rate and not on coverage in individual regions.
But the rapid pace of vaccination in Sydney and the capital's demographic dominance suggests some parts of the state will be well short of the vaccination targets when regional travel resumes.
Vaccines reduce infection and transmission of the virus but do not eliminate either.
The Hunter Valley vineyards is one area which could be vulnerable to vaccinated Sydneysiders arriving while the local population remains relatively unprotected.
Cessnock MP Clayton Barr said targeting virus hot spots for vaccination was understandable "but you can't unlock the state until we all get to 70 or 80 per cent".
"What are they going to do when the state's second biggest tourist destination is vaccinated at only 30 per cent double jab," he said.
"We are nowhere near 70 or 80 per cent. We're all in this together, aren't we?"
The eastern side of Lake Macquarie, Merewether, Kotara, New Lambton, Stockton and Nelson Bay have two-dose vaccination rates above 40 per cent.
In the news
Our coverage of the health and safety aspects of this outbreak of COVID-19 in Newcastle and the Hunter, and lockdown rules and changes, is free for anyone to access. However, we depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support. You can also sign up for our newsletters for regular updates.