Helping hands . . . The Oamaru Pacific Island Community Group hosted its first vaccination clinic of the year last weekend. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

The Oamaru Pacific Island Community Group (OPICG) remains focused on protecting the community this year.

The group’s first Covid-19 vaccination clinic got under way at St Pauls Presbyterian Church last week, and a steady stream of people requiring their first, second or booster shot doses made their way through.

OPICG manager Hana Halalele said the pharmacies in Oamaru had been ‘‘flat out’’ administering vaccinations, and the OPICG clinics were another way for people to access the vaccine.

‘‘I think people are really conscious, especially with the Omicron that’s coming in now, that they just want that added protection, that extra layer . . . for them and their families,’’ Mrs Halalele said.

As some employers required staff to be vaccinated and mandates were in force, people who had been hesitant at first had been getting vaccinated.

‘‘At the same time I think it’s important to be respectful of people’s differences in their opinions and values. Our [job] isn’t really, I guess, to try and change people’s minds but to just provide the access for those people that are needing it.’’

Children aged 5 to 11 became eligible to be vaccinated from Monday, but OPICG clinics would only be available for those over 12, as additional training was required to vaccinate younger children.

However, the OPICG would support children’s vaccination efforts in any way they could, Mrs Halalele said.

‘‘We’ll provide any other administrative support needed for the community as they need their kids booked in.’’

OPICG Covid-19 vaccination navigator Jane Taafaki said it was important Waitaki’s most vulnerable people took advantage of the clinics.

‘‘Because it really is only a matter of time before [Covid-19] comes down here,’’ Mrs Taafaki said.

The OPICG clinics were supported by Oamaru Hospital and local general practitioners.

Mrs Halalele said the clinics had helped Pasifika people gain a better understanding of the healthcare system, and many were considering careers in health.

‘‘I’ve enjoyed meeting people and the type of culture that you can create within that type of setting.

‘‘I love to see people growing their capability as well, learning new skills . . . and just giving them the independence to pilot something.’’

The group did not receive any funding for its work until September last year. The funding enabled the group to employ a Covid vaccination navigator and introduce a professional development programme for people to train as vaccine administrators.

OPICG planned to host at least one Oamaru clinic a month and would also look at hosting other clinics in Waitaki’s rural communities again.