After a slower start, Wellington’s vaccination launch has been advanced in recent weeks.
But doctors want more resources to help fight the war against misinformation on social media, in particular to convince Rangatahi Māori.
The nationwide vaccination program got off to a frigid start, but with the supply assured it is advancing, especially in the capital.
Pharmacies like Unichem Wellington Central on Lambton Quay are now pivotal in the race to vaccinate before another Delta outbreak.
Pharmaceutical and business manager Victor Chong said he started vaccinating a month ago and is making more than 200 reservations and walk-ins a day.
Caleb, who was lined up outside to get shot, said it was all about the location.
“For me, convenience was the most important thing. If I can get out of the office, get it, and then go back to work, do you know why not?
“But if I have to drive somewhere, walk for years, I may not do it as soon as I can.”
Wellington has seen a remarkable turnaround, going from having one of the worst vaccination numbers nationwide to one of the best in a couple of months.
In just the past two weeks, it has gone from sixth to third nationally, going from 57 percent coverage of the first dose of those eligible to 75.5 percent.
In fact, the RNZ analysis shows that a quarter of all vaccinations in Wellington have been done from the fortnight to last Tuesday.
A quarter of all eligible Wellington residents have been hit in the past two weeks.
But the slow start means Wellington is off the beat distributing second doses, ranking third nationwide at 24.4 percent a fortnight ago compared to 31.9 percent. It is likely to move up the rankings once those waiting their six weeks between shots are eligible.
And Maori rates still lag behind: fewer than one in five Maori have been vaccinated in the last fortnight compared to more than one in four eligible Wellington residents.
Family doctors helping with the surge
College of General Practitioners Medical Director Dr. Bryan Betty said the government kept GPs at a distance in the early part of the rollout, and now that compliance barriers have been overcome, more are onboarding.
“The more access points you have in a particular area, the better you are in terms of access to the vaccine and the ability to get it out.
“We know that there are some DHBs across the country that have not involved the general practice [as much] for example, and … I think they are struggling a bit because they are very centralized in their approach. “
Dr Betty said the region’s DHB pushing a community-based approach, including Pacific and Maori providers, was key to moving the region up the national rankings.
The Porirua Union and Community Health Clinic is located in Cannon’s Creek. About half of his clients are Pasifika, a quarter are Maori and he also has hundreds of refugees on his books.
The numbers across the clinic skyrocketed about a month ago to over 600 a day.
The vaccinator at the Ma’u Pauta clinic said it was successful because its workers were from the same communities they treated and had social connections with the target populations.
But in the last week, Porirua Union’s vaccination numbers have dropped and now it’s fighting to get people through its doors.
Dr. Betty also works at the clinic and said that while online misinformation was a national problem, it was particularly deterring Rangatahi in the area.
He said the misinformation is based on the existing distrust of disadvantaged groups towards the health system, where they have often faced ill-treatment.
People’s religious beliefs also discourage some people.
Ioana Viliamu-Amusia, from the clinic, said misinformation kept young people away.
“A young man I spoke to today said that there are not enough positives about the vaccine, too many negatives, more than anything else.”
He said the DHB, the government and the media needed to put more resources on online messages in favor of vaccination.
Region using mobile clinics
Capital & Coast and Hutt Valley DHB CEO Fionnagh Dougan said bookings in the coming weeks looked healthy, but the biggest challenge was reaching out to those who doubt.
He said there were mobile vaccination teams in the community and a vaccination truck was being used to establish pop-up vaccination sites in places like marae, churches and community halls.
“We are now considering other mobile options to deliver vaccines to known ‘hot spots’ that have large numbers of unvaccinated people, and [we] we are commissioning Kahungunu Whenua Services to provide a mobile vaccination service to our community of homeless people and people in emergency housing. “
Some other numbers from the Wellington region
- 407,500 doses distributed throughout the region – a quarter in the fortnight until Tuesday, September 14
- A quarter of all eligible Wellington residents have received a vaccination in the last fortnight.
- 54 percent of Maori and 63 percent of the Pacific population have received at least their first dose.
- There are 67 places to get vaccinated. See the full list [www.rph.org.nz/public-health-topics/vaccinate-greater-wellington/getting-vaccinated/wellington-porirua-the-hutt-valley-and-kapiti/vaccination-centres/ here]
- Wellington is outperforming the national figures in all comparisons except the second doses for Europe / Others and Asia, and slightly below the second doses for Pasifika.