‘I just have to keep trying’: Covid vaccine uptake slows in parts of South Island

Health professionals are adamant and determined to reach the unvaccinated with phone calls and mobile clinics.  (File photo)

ALDEN WILLIAMS/Things

Health professionals are adamant and determined to reach the unvaccinated with phone calls and mobile clinics. (File photo)

The number of new vaccinations has fallen significantly this week in some poorly vaccinated South Island communities – with population growth even exceeding the number of shots given in two areas.

Health workers remain committed to reaching the unvaccinated, with scheduled phone calls and mobile clinics continuing to operate. Many of the unvaccinated were mostly those living in isolated rural communities, authorities said.

Karamea, Golden Bay and Takaka Hills were among several suburbs of the South Island where the first dose rate rose by less than 1 percentage point in the past week, health ministry data shows.

The three suburbs, which are home to about 3,800 eligible people (aged 12 and older), gave just 22 first doses in the week ending Tuesday.

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These three suburbs are still among the lowest vaccinated areas in the South Island. In each of these, more than 20 percent of the eligible population is unvaccinated.

“We know there is work to be done,” said Cathy O’Malley, general manager of the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board (DHB).

The DHB had mobile vaccination clinics, including large trucks, vans and an RV, making targeted visits to parts of the region with lower vaccination rates, she said.

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Six suburbs in the northwestern tip of the South Island, including Golden Bay, still had initial doses of less than 80 percent. The overall first dose rate for Nelson Marlborough was now above 90 percent.

Two South Island suburbs made no progress on their first doses in the past week.

In fact, rates have fallen in Murchison-Nelson Lakes and Greymouth Rural, which together are home to about 1,700 eligible people.

This is because the estimated population in the two areas grew by six people, but only two initial doses were administered during the entire week.

Still, rates for the first dose are not declining in all areas with below-average vaccination coverage.

Christchurch’s Aranui, the West Coast’s Inangahua, and Southland’s Ohai-Nightcaps all rose their first dose rates by more than 2 percentage points during the week with 117 first doses given to residents of the three suburbs.

Nelson Marlborough Health officials Rebecca Colley, left, Kay Ford and Ngaire-Dawn Munro took this RV last month to administer vaccinations in Golden Bay.

Nelson Marlborough Health officials Rebecca Colley, left, Kay Ford and Ngaire-Dawn Munro took this RV last month to administer vaccinations in Golden Bay.

Conversely, Abel Tasman, Pegasus Bay, Omihi and Ashley Gorge all cut their first dose rate during the week by less than 1 percentage point.

dr. Helen Skinner, who is in charge of Canterbury DHB’s Covid-19 response, said she remained committed to improving lagging vaccination rates in North Canterbury.

“We are aware that different communities have different needs and therefore the best way to reach people varies greatly between communities,” she said.

Charlotte Etheridge, general manager of Nelson Bays Primary Health, said their main focus was still accessibility for people in remote rural areas.

“They’re on their farms, they lead that extremely long-hour lifestyle,” she said.

Etheridge said her organization was planning another “Tiki Tour” that would see a van carrying clinical staff depart for remote areas. At the end of October there was another tour.

About 15 staff members would also start vaccinating in Golden Bay on Saturday, she said.

“We just have to keep trying.”

Waitaha Primary Health, which operates across the Hurunui district of Canterbury, has been using the ‘JabberWaka’ mobile vaccination bus to reach isolated areas since mid-November.

The organization’s director Bill Eschenbach said the first dose of Hurunui had reached about 86 percent.

“Over the next 14 days, there are quite a few initiatives in the Hurunui that we are working towards to increase vaccination coverage,” he said.

“We’re aware of the unvaccinated population…so we’re targeting those people.”

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