Vax support born of polio ordeal

Former polio sufferer Kevin O’Neill said people should get the Covid-19 vaccine to avoid potential long-term health complications. PHOTO: SHANNON THOMSON
Former polio sufferer Kevin O’Neill said people should get the Covid-19 vaccine to avoid potential long-term health complications. PHOTO: SHANNON THOMSON
Left with lifelong health complications after contracting polio when he was 3 months old, a 64-year-old Cromwell man says the vaccine hesitant need to think about their future health.

Kevin O’Neill said vaccination afforded people the best chance  of avoiding long-term debilitating health problems if they came into contact with Covid-19.

‘‘If you get Covid in 2021, what are you going to be saying in 2031, if you’re still alive?

‘‘Are you going to be doing the ‘Oh hell, I’ve had 10 years of crap and I wish I’d had the jab and hadn’t listened to Google so much’?’’

He was admitted to hospital as a baby after contracting influenza during the 1957 Asian flu epidemic.

While he was there, he contracted polio and doctors fought to save his life from the deadly pair of diseases.

The polio infection permanently affected his health, particularly on the right side of his body.

His right leg was 30mm shorter than his left, causing balance issues and fatigue, and diaphragm problems had caused breathing issues.

However, he considered himself lucky, not just to survive at such a vulnerable age, but also to avoid the most severe consequences of the disease, such as the fate of those confined to an iron lung.

He had been too young to receive a polio vaccination, which was first introduced  in New Zealand in 1956, and said people needed to get their Covid-19 vaccination to protect those who could not.

‘‘I said that to a lady a little while ago, because they had a 1-year-old son, and I said ‘Hey, this is my experience. Don’t do it for yourself, do it for him’.’’

He got his Covid-19 vaccinations as soon as he was eligible, but  he would still be worried  about contracting the disease given the legacy of his polio bout, Mr O’Neill said.

Ministry of Health figures released yesterday showed vaccination rates in the South  continue to rank among the best in New Zealand.

Dunedin City leads the way on  vaccination,  data showing 69% of  residents are fully vaccinated, and Marlborough  trails slightly behind with 68% as of Tuesday. Central Otago was  third with 66%. Queenstown (61.9%) and Timaru (62%)  also made the top 10.

In the Southern District Health Board  catchment, 84.17% of eligible people  have received their first dose,  behind only Auckland Metro (87.12%) and Capital  & Coast and Hutt Valley (86.73%).

When it came to people who have received their second dose, the SDHB area again ranked  highly (62.52%), the third best in the country behind Nelson Marlborough (65.19%) and Auckland Metro (64.47%).

People planning to turn out for a free jab at the ‘‘Super Saturday’’ vaccination drive this weekend will have some  incentives  on offer across the region.

Cromwell Pharmacy is planning a festive day with dress-ups, live music,  a sausage sizzle and a prize draw for a scenic flight.

In Dunedin free ice cream will be on offer at SDHB vaccination events in the Octagon,  at the Meridian Mall mass vaccination centre and next to the Dunedin Ice Stadium  and at the Civic Theatre in Invercargill.

People wanting a shot of coffee with their Covid-19 shot can get a free cup at Mornington Unichem pharmacy in Dunedin, Stewarts Pharmacy in Invercargill and East Otago Health in Palmerston.

More than 70 vaccination  sites  are listed on the SDHB website.