Analysis of data by University of Otago researchers shows vaccination rates in rural areas are ‘‘significantly lower’’ than in urban areas.
Dunedin School of Medicine rural associate dean Associate Prof Garry Nixon and his team have found the number of people who have had at least one dose of the vaccine was 11% lower in rural areas.
‘‘For the eligible rural population, the rate of having had at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine is 726 per 1000 compared to 816 per 1000 urban residents.
‘‘For rural Maori, the rate of having had at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine is 10% lower than for urban Maori — 533 per 1000 rural residents compared to 593 per 1000 urban residents.
He said the rates were calculated using data released by the Ministry of Health last week and the Geographic Classification for Health (GCH).
The analysis revealed a ‘‘steady fall-off’’ in vaccination with increasing rurality and remoteness.
‘‘The rates in our most remote areas is 19% less than what it is in major metropolitan centres.’’
University of Waikato collaborator Dr Jesse Whitehead also found there was significant variation in spatial access to Covid-19 vaccination services.
For urban areas, the median drive time to the nearest service was three minutes, but this more than triples to 10 minutes for rural areas.
In the most remote areas of Aotearoa, this increases again to a median time of 21 minutes.
Prof Nixon said it was important rural New Zealanders get vaccinated as soon as possible.
‘‘Covid-19 is already finding its way into rural areas. In many overseas countries, rural communities have ended up with more Covid-19 and higher death rates than the cities, and still are because of lower vaccination rates.
‘‘Rural areas are no place to come down with a serious respiratory illness that needs intensive care.
‘‘We don’t have to go there, but it’s crucial that every rural Kiwi who’s eligible gets vaccinated, and gets vaccinated now.
‘‘This is further evidence that a concerted effort needs to be made to improve access to vaccination for Maori communities, including those outside the major centres.’’
New Zealand Rural General Practice Network chief executive Dr Grant Davidson said while the inequities were expected, the results were still worrying.
‘‘What is most concerning is that it confirms that the productive rural backbone of our country is significantly at risk.
‘‘Due to a lack of accessibility in rural New Zealand, it is no surprise that rural populations are lagging in vaccination rates.’’
He said there would be a push for higher vaccination rates this week in the build-up to Super Saturday, a national day of vaccination.