It’s dial a jab time – DHB unveils new Covid strategy

Who you going to call? Unichem Family Health Pharmacy vax busters, from left, Jordan Hinton, Robyn Bridgland, Fiona Hutchinson, Charmaine Meiklejohn, Astrid Pfeffer, Eileen Rimene, Anita Venter, Peta Burr. Photo: Mary Anne Gill.

Health vaccinators will go anywhere in Waipā to protect the community from Covid-19 in a strategy unveiled by Waikato District Health Board (DHB) this week.

The DHB will mobilise teams to do vaccinations at events where there are sufficient numbers – if they are asked.

And it’s Māori, aged 12-39, the DHB has in its sights as the percentage of the eligible population who have had their first and second Covid doses lags way behind non-Māori.

The DHB says it will go to marae, sporting and whānau events on request so everyone could get protected by Christmas.

It is the largest vaccination campaign of its type in Waipā and saw the DHB and Raukura Hauora o Tainui hitting the road this week.

“We’re looking at how we get out into the community. We’re very open to meeting their needs, doing things that work for them. These are busy people so it’s about taking the vaccination service out to them,” said the DHB’s Covid-19 vaccine programme lead Maree Munro.

Maree Munro

No appointment was needed at community events as Munro revealed an opportunistic angle to getting vaccinated at other vaccination places too.

“Wherever you see a flag, just walk on in and see if you can get your vaccination done then and there.”

Nearly 75 per cent of Waipā’s eligible population had received their first dose at the start of the week but among the eligible Māori population of 6822 people, it was only 44.4 per cent.

“We’re hitting the hard-to-reach which is the 12-39 age group. That’s the numbers we’ve really got to target,” said Munro.

Two of the Covid-19 vaccinators at Unichem Family Health Pharmacy in Cambridge say their primary reason for putting their names forward to help was so they could help protect their community.

Robyn Bridgland and Eileen Rimene, who both live in Cambridge, are vaccinator nurses between their regular jobs. Robyn is an occupational nurse and Eileen a practice nurse.

Unichem Family Health Pharmacy last week gave their 10,000th vaccination since its first on 30 June.

Pharmacist Jordan Hinton has also been going out to rest homes and retirement villages to provide vaccinations to staff and residents.

The Hamilton Rd pharmacy is the town’s newest, has plenty of parking and was ideally placed on Hamilton Road. It was offering vaccinations a month before Waikato DHB opened its facility at Ngā Hau E Wha, Community Marae.

Cambridge Medical Centre also provides Covid 19 vaccinations.

Unichem Pharmacy had its busiest time during lockdown four last month peaking at 250 vaccinations a day.

Munro said the DHB had done things differently right from the start because Waikato was unique given its high Māori and rural population.

“We were with our kaupapa Māori right from the outset.”

Kīngi Tūheitia played a leading role and combined with the principle of manaakitanga – kai manaaki greeted visitors and provided care and support – was hugely successful and resulted in kaumātua vaccination rates of nearly 90 per cent.

“Any event or opportunity that we could come and vaccinate, we’re very open to being contacted and asked to go,” said Munro.

“We’ve got mobile teams, everything all set up. We’ve got enough vaccinators. We’ll go to any sort of event – within the bounds of lockdown.”

And if that fails to work, the DHB will text or call. It has recruited Māori and Pacific staff to ring people up to discuss vaccinations.

“They are the peers of the people they are ringing,” said Munro.

“There’s lots of events going to be happening, like the Waka Ama nationals at Lake Karāpiro in January. We’re saying, at least be prepared so that if the events go ahead, you know you’re vaccinated, you’re ready to go. It’s about being ready for when the country gets going again.”

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