Saturday, November 27

Maori-led vaccination campaign reaches 80 percent of Te Whānau ā Apanui population


More than 80 percent of the population of the Te Whānau ā Apanui area has been vaccinated due to the proactive efforts of a general rural practice in Te Kaha.

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So far, 87.7 percent of people in the Te Whānau ā Apanui area have received their first vaccination and 80 percent have been fully vaccinated since they began giving the vaccines on May 11 (File photo) .
Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

The area consists of the iwi boundaries spanning from Pōtaka to Hawaii on the east coast.

Te Kaha Medical Center general practitioner Rachel Thomson said that according to her data, there were 1,432 eligible to be vaccinated. So far, 87.7 percent have received their first vaccination and 80 percent have been fully vaccinated since the vaccines began on May 11.

“The numbers we used were a combination of what was in our registered population … plus anyone who lived in the area but was not registered with us. That figure was used by hapū representatives who went from house to house to see who lived there that could get vaccinated, “Thomson said.

The launch of the vaccine in the area dates back to last year’s outbreak, he said.

“We felt incredibly vulnerable and we were reflecting on how many people died during the 1918 flu epidemic. You don’t have to go far to see the urupā full of our people from that time. So we’ve all become very protective of ours. That’s when things like community safe zones and other initiatives were put in place to keep our people safe during that shutdown, “Thomson said.

“So when the vaccine became available, it really seemed logical that we would need to get it as our next layer of protection for our people.”

They realized that the vaccine was available to border workers, so they decided to be proactive and sent some of their nurses to the borders where the vaccines were being given to learn how the systems worked, he said. That started the certification process to administer vaccines.

“When we started this, you could only keep the vaccine out of the freezer for five days, and we only got the vaccine around day two or three, so we had a very short window to give them.”

Hapū representatives, St John’s volunteers, Te Rūnanga or Te Whānau local social services and some DHB nurses initially assisted Te Kaha Medical Center with the deployment.

Once they had the denominator, the list of everyone and their names in the area, they chose 30 people for the first day, two from each of the 13 Te Whānau ā Apanui hapū and a couple more in the community, to have their first chance. .

“It really helped because it meant that people from each hapū could go back to theirs and tell them what’s going on.”

Continuing with the deployment, they went to marae around the area and set up vaccination clinics on the wharekai. They called everyone, booked them, and showed up. If they needed a lift, one would be provided.

“We didn’t have any additional staff, it was just the usual clinic staff on top of regular activities.”

“It was a huge community effort to get that 80 percent. People were motivated, people who had questions could ask them and get an answer that day. I think that helped people feel more comfortable,” Thomson said.

It wasn’t a fight to get the vaccines, but there were barriers, he said.

“There were many barriers in place. In part they had to do with the requirements to store the vaccine. In the initial phase, there were very strict requirements on temperature control, so it was very difficult to get accreditation to be able to retain and distribute the vaccine. It was difficult to complete the training program There were a limited number when it was necessary for their nurses and vaccinators to go through the training program.

“There were a lot of barriers along the way and I don’t think it was in the thinking at the time, which areas like ours could do it, therefore we had to show that we could. They also didn’t have a plan for small rural areas like ours where the people do not have access to larger centers.

“I think if we had had more Maori suppliers and more Maori medical equipment on board earlier, we could have gotten these results elsewhere as well.”

“We also went a bit against the idea of ​​when we should do those over 65 and then over 55. We didn’t do that because it wouldn’t be appropriate in a rural area. We did everyone at the same time they came.”

Thomson said they did it that way because he knew the healthcare system didn’t suit his area.

“Traditionally, the health system hasn’t. So it was pretty clear that if we let someone else take care of our community, it would be a disaster.

“We were very motivated to protect our people. We know our people here, so we want to protect them as much as possible. We want to protect ourselves as well.”

The numbers that the Te Kaha medical center had were different from the numbers that the Health Ministry said were vaccinated in the area.

Thomson thought it was because the Health Ministry maps and the iwi boundaries were different.

“Our areas go from Hawaii to Potaka, which is different from Cape Runaway. I don’t know if they are including the next city as Ōpōtiki, or where exactly their borders are.

“We look at the area differently.”




www.rnz.co.nz

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