While New Zealand’s large cities continue to rise to 90 percent total vacuum, parts of the New Zealand regional region are lagging behind.
Rotorua’s western suburbs have been identified as a problem area, with rates in some areas as low as 40 percent.
Reporter Nick Truebridge and cameraman Nick Monro hit the road to talk to the people of Western Heights and local GPs trying to replace fear with Pfizer.
Thick morning fog choked the western suburbs of Rotorua, drizzle began to fall, a miserable morning accompanied by some paltry vaccination rates.
We started telling locals outside of a busy row of stores on Brookland Rd, occupied by a Four Square, a take-out, health clinics, and drug stores.
A local woman had received only one opportunity, like 62 percent of the eligible population in this suburb.
“It is like that, if our children cannot be vaccinated, people are not receiving it because it cannot be,” he said.
“My thoughts on that [getting the vaccine] it was okay if I don’t get it I’m going to die, who’s going to take care of my children? “
But the Lakes District Board of Health says 38 percent here haven’t even had a chance, despite 57 percent who haven’t been fully vaccinated.
“No, I haven’t had any of them … I just don’t think I need them,” said an unvaccinated local.
Locals say that many simply do not trust the authorities or are not told what to do.
“Suddenly we have to do something because someone said, yeah, that’s a hard pill to swallow in the community,” said another local.
“It’s a personal choice, but I think our iwi needs to get in there, you know, the local tribes come in and talk to our children, our adults.”
A battle is raging here: victory comes in the form of vaccination and local nurses like Val Read are on the front lines.
“Frankly, some of them are quite terrified of the vaccine. Some of them really want to look at the vial and the solution of ‘what are you injecting me with?’ and all that.
“Very often you need to sit down and have a very long discussion and conversation with them to overcome all those barriers,” Read said.
Across the street, local GP Clem Li Liva is fighting his own battle.
“About a third of my patients say they are not vaccinated, a third of my adult patients, so at least three or four a day say they are not vaccinated.
“Some of them just need a quick notice, but there is at least one a day that you need to have a detailed conversation with them about that,” he said.
You recently had a consultation involving three people, which lasted 20 minutes of extra time due to a conversation about the vaccine.
“One of them has definitely not changed his mind, the other is going to think about it, and the third is probably going to get vaccinated.”
His colleague, Dr. Alistair McLean, takes a respectful approach.
“My spiel is that I tend to be quite respectful of that position and start from a ‘I wonder why’ position rather than a ‘you’re dumb’ position.
“I find it quite helpful for people who are indecisive, rather than asking them why they are not doing it? Tell them why they are halfway there? What makes you think about wanting to get vaccinated?? And then discuss the positives rather than negatives. “
But Dr. McLean said things could have been done differently in Western Heights and the neighboring suburbs.
Rather than top-down leadership from the government and DHB, he says it should have been left to the locals, local Maori and local health professionals, familiar and trustworthy faces.
“We probably needed to do more incentive-based and probably a little bit of you is important to us, so we’re doing it early rather than you being bad and last,” says Dr. McLean.
Lakes DHB Chief Operating Officer Alan Wilson, sysd is concerned about vaccination rates languishing in the 1940s in West Rotorua.
While Western Heights had a 43.7 percent double dose, neighboring Mangakakahi sat down with 43.8 percent, and nearby Fordlands was down 41.4 percent.
“We have a service running at the Western Heights Mall, we have had a clinic in Fordlands, we have two gang events in Western Suburbs and two elsewhere in Rotorua.
“We are looking for options to knock on doors to see if that is any improvement and the other thing we have is that every Sunday and Monday we operate a great tour with the Te Arawa Covid collective on Clayton Road, which is on the corner of all Western Suburbs, “Wilson said.
So reinforcements may be arriving, meanwhile the locals are taking matters into their own hands.
“It’s good to see our gang members that are there, you know, trying to do the right thing too, different gangs, so yeah, I’m with them,” said a local man.
West Rotorua is still desperate to catch the rest.