West Coast health workers head for hills with vaccine offer

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
West Coast health workers are about to head for the hills to offer Covid 19 vaccinations to rural people who may have missed out.

West Coast District Health Board general manager Phil Wheble told a board meeting on Friday that 43 per cent of eligible West Coast residents were now fully vaccinated and 64 per cent  have had their first shots. That compared to the national figure of 67 per cent  who had received their first dose.

Vaccinations slowed to 1600 a week during the recent lockdown because of social distancing rules, Mr Wheble said.

The campaign is about to crank up again with drive-through clinics arranged for Westport, Hokitika and Greymouth in October for everyone aged 12 and older.

"We're wanting to vaccinate as many people as possible who are ready, willing and able, particularly in the main centres," Mr Wheble said.

After October, the campaign would move into a new phase, looking for people who were harder to reach in rural areas.

"For every vaccination there will be a lot of effort that goes into it, so you will see the numbers of vaccinations going down."

When the DHB ran its first clinics in more remote areas it vaccinated all the adults it could, not just the elderly and those at risk, Mr Wheble said.

"But we have to go back now to places we don't usually run our clinics and vaccinate 12 to 16-year-olds and anyone else who didn't take the opportunity previously."

The numbers were probably quite small, he said.

"For example, in Haast we'll have to put in a lot of effort to get down there but we'll be vaccinating a small proportion of the people but we need to do that."

DHB data was now showing where the gaps were across the Coast.

Compared to other DHBs, the West Coast had lower numbers of people who had had just one shot, but was towards the higher end for the percentage of people fully vaccinated.

The recent nurses' strikes had had a bigger impact than expected on the vaccine rollout on the Coast because so many DHB staff were involved, compared to other regions with a variety of vaccine providers, he said.

Board members suggested a localised advertising campaign was needed to persuade Coast residents to get their shots, and convince the "stragglers"  - those who had been hard to convince.

Mr Wheble said the DHB now had the freedom to do that.

"We're also looking at how we provide the vaccines, so it's going from getting people to walk into the clinics or drive-through, to us going to them, even into their homes."

The vaccination teams would be going into tiny communities such as Otira and Blackball where it had not been before, Mr Wheble said.

Employers could also jump on board, other board members suggested, and some on the Coast had offered staff incentives such as grocery vouchers to get vaccinated.

There are still just over 8000 eligible people on the West Coast who are neither booked nor vaccinated, according to DHB figures.

A further 6000 to 7000 people would need to have their shots if the West Coast is to reach the 90 per cent vaccinated level that is considered safe.

"We will have the capacity to vaccinate 100 per cent (of the Coast population) by December... what we need to do is reduce barriers for people to come and get vaccinated," Mr Wheble said.

The vaccination teams could go into homes, workplaces and polytechs to achieve that. However, it would be up to schools to make the call on whether to offer vaccinations for pupils.

The West Coast drive-through free vaccination clinics for people 12 and over will run from 10am to 4pm as follows:

•  Westport (Saturday and Sunday, October 2-3), Pulse Energy Recreation Centre, corner of Domett and Pakington streets.

•  Hokitika (Saturday and Sunday, October 9-10), Westland Milk Products staff car park, corner of Stafford and Livingstone streets.

•  Greymouth (Friday, October 15 and Sunday, October 17, Greymouth Aerodrome.

Bookings can be made on-line at www.BookMyVaccine.nz or by calling the National Booking team on 0800 28 29 26 (8am to 8pm, seven days).

- By Lois Williams
Local Democracy Reporter 






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