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Keeping up, catching up
New Zealand’s approach to managing COVID-19 has differed from most western countries. We have focussed on keeping our health system functional. We have not let it become overwhelmed. Stories of shortages of ICU beds, or even mortuary space, have been common place elsewhere in the world over the past 18 months. In that same period, New Zealand has reached 90% double vaccination rates while keeping our hospitals relatively functional and our COVID-19 death rate very low indeed.
Even so there has still been a price. Health staff have been diverted to treating those COVID-19 cases we have had, as well as to planning, training, vaccinating, tracking and tracing.
There have been consequent delays in hospital services – such as some diagnostic tests or surgery. Sometimes these have been caught up; sometimes not. When COVID-19 arrives south, as it will, some of those delays might well recur.
Less obviously, other vaccination rates are starting to drop a little because they no longer receive the special attention they need. For example progress on catching up on measles vaccination, of some teenagers who missed out years ago, has slowed.
Indeed we have a lot of vaccination activity in front of us. Measles, mumps, rubella and all the other scheduled vaccines need to be maintained. Then 6 – 11 year old COVID-19 vaccination starts from January, booster COVID-19 vaccination is being progressively rolled out for the rest of us, seasonal flu jabs for many of us are due in the Autumn, and we might also add whatever is needed when we better understand Omicron.
New Zealand has made astonishingly good progress with COVID-19 vaccination, and the efforts of the people of Otago and Southland are amongst the best. We have one of the highest protection levels in the world.
But the vaccination job isn’t done yet.
Check out these other Better Health South stories:
Accessibility Week Promotes Disability Awareness, Challenges Stereotypes
Keeping Safe Over Summer
Southern Hits 90% Vaccination Rate
Dunedin Hospital Draws on Decades-old Technology to Fight COVID-19