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As winter progresses, so does the need for vaccines to combat covid and seasonal threats. to this end in west Auckland, they’re making changes to help reach parts of the community who’ve largely been missing from vaccination efforts to date.
For over two years the priority to get Covid-19 vaccination numbers up has been at the forefront of New Zealand’s healthcare strategy. However, at Auckland’s Westgate vaccination centre, they’re changing direction.
Tevita Funaki is the chief executive of the Fono, who have been pivotal in the running of this centre, says going mobile is the next stage for them.
“We’ll be returning some of our staff to other activities and our focus will be on the mobile clinic and also setting up ethnic specific vaccination drives.”
Part of the reason for the change is the high percentage of those in the district who have been double-vaccinated against covid. Currently it stands at 92.4%. and local health officials like Josephine Aumea Herman from Pacific Health Waitemata says it’s been a great success.
“I think it’s been a fantastic opportunity not just to save lives through the Covid-19 vaccination program, but also to show that we can come and work with our community and we can stand up services that need to be stood up at short notice to make sure we protect our people,” she says.
From the Northern Regional Health Coordination Centre (NRHCC) Pacific Director Makerita Poutasi says the Fono deserve a lot of credit for their efforts.
“The Fono have also been at the front of outreach plus using this centre as sort of a base for more volume, and volume has been really important in terms of the covid response.” she says.
However, with winter here, the onus has shifted from Covid to other illnesses like the flu. And being able to vaccinate people against seasonal illnesses requires a different approach.
“We’re really trying to be alert for other things that are impacting families; flu, respiratory illness and really making sure everyone is up to date with their immunisations,” Poutasi says.
“So, getting out to a mobile centre is a great way to catch up with family, have a great day and also get your immunisation – so flu and measles are the focus of the next wee period.”
And Poutasi says another group being targeted by the mobile vaccine centres is a cohort in the 15 – 22 years age group, who will likely need an MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) booster shot.
“There’s a group of people… who may have missed out as part of their sort of regular approach to childhood vaccinations or didn’t quite catch up at school,” she says.
“So, if you can’t remember if you’ve had your Measles Mumps Rubella, and you’re really keen not to get measles, which is pretty contagious in the community, then really reaching out to your GP, contacting the Fono, going down to a mobile event, and talking about what you might need to just stay well is a really critical part of this next winter peak.”