Saturday, November 27

The inaccessibility of rural health care is reflected in low vaccination rates: expert

The west coast lags behind the rest of the continent when it comes to uptake of the Covid vaccine, up 71 percent for the first hits, compared to 80 percent in the rest of Te Wai Pounamu.

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Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

A rural health expert says the same image is repeated in remote areas across the country and this is a reflection of poor access to health services in the countryside in general.

Westland Mayor Bruce Smith said the local DHB had been doing its best to make the vaccine available through direct delivery clinics, but that there was no escaping the challenges posed by the tyranny of distance. .

“For the DHB, of course, there are 606 kilometers from Karamea to Haast, it’s a big area. So even though the numbers are lower than, say, some of the cities, I think they are doing really well.”

Mayor Smith insisted that most of the Coasters were happy to take the hit.

“There are some people who wander around putting brochures in mailboxes and trying to discourage other people. I don’t care if those people don’t get vaccinated, it’s a personal choice, but those people need to put on their tin hats and just take care of themselves and stop. of trying to create misinformation. “

Buller Mayor Jamie Cleine said attendance at a pop-up clinic in Westport last weekend was disappointing, with far more doses available than people there to receive them.

“We will have, you know, hardcore groups of people who are anti-vax. But they are not very frequent. Obviously, there are some people with that opinion, but I think most of the people will show up for the jab in due course, I like to think. “

University of Otago adjunct professor and rural health expert Garry Nixon was not surprised by the low acceptance, saying the countryside was generally poorer, had a poorly resourced health system, and required people to travel a long way to get to the doctor.

He said that, for the same reasons, the rural population is likely to suffer the most in any outbreak.

“Based on the data that we have seen coming from the US and the latest waves of the pandemic, there have been an increased number of Covid cases in rural areas and also poor results.”

As in most of the country, acceptance among Maori was even lower, with just 58 percent for the first few doses in Te Tai or Poutini.

The Whānau Ora Community Clinic had the contract to offer the vaccine in medical centers across the country, including Te Wai Pounamu.

Its founder, George Ngatai, said it was a marathon, not a sprint, and for Maori across the country, reaching the magic 90 percent coverage could take until April next year.

“If it were to take Covid, our fees in terms of coming in for vaccinations or doing our regular checks, are on similar lines of lack of commitment, and we have to be innovative and try to find better ways to get services to communities.” .

Garry Nixon looked forward to the release of more detailed data that would allow health authorities to better target the launch of the vaccine to communities that were falling behind the rest of the team of five million.

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