The Oamaru Pacific Island Community Group’s Covid-19 vaccination clinics have been about more than just vaccinating and educating the community, manager Hana Halalele says.
Working with Tumai Ora Whanau Services, the Waitaki Multicultural Council, Oamaru Hospital, Southern DHB and WellSouth, the Oamaru Pacific Island Community Group (OPICG) has held three vaccination clinics in Oamaru, and has a fourth planned for October 29 and 30.
Across the Southern district, 75% of eligible people have had at least one dose of the vaccine. Rates were not as high for Maori and Pacific communities.
As of Monday, about 66% of eligible Pasifika people in the Waitaki district had at least one dose.
Mrs Halalele said the OPICG’s clinics at St Paul’s Church had been “really popular” about 2300 doses were administered across the first two, while the third was more targeted to the rural sector and hard-to-reach populations.
The clinics were not just for Pasifika people, either – they were for the whole community, she said.
“Our focus is to try and increase the uptake of the Covid-19 vaccination for Maori and Pasifika, but in Waitaki, being a rural area, we don’t always have the same access to opportunities that the metro areas have, so we’ve always opened the clinics up because we want a blanket approach,” she said.
“We don’t want to be exclusive. The clinics are open for anyone to come on in.”
The clinics were also creating opportunities for Waitaki people to increase their skills.
A professional development training programme for health workers to become vaccinators had been piloted at the clinics.
“So hopefully by the end of October, at the next clinic, they can do the practical assessments and then they can hopefully be certified as vaccinators,” she said.
“That’s the thing that we quite like about some of the issues that have been raised or exposed through Covid-19 – we can actually be quite innovative in how we respond, but also how we can grow our local capability.”
The next OPICG clinics would be held on October 29 and 30.
The Friday clinic will be held from 4pm to 7pm, tailored for people who are at work or school during the day. The Saturday clinic will run for 10am to 4pm.
WellSouth is also reaching out to unvaccinated Maori and Pasifika people in the Waitaki district, offering to book their vaccine appointments. Nine new part-time staff have been contracted to WellSouth’s call centre to make outbound calls on behalf of general practices.
“We want to make it as easy as possible for people to get the vaccine, and will help book them in at any provider that is convenient, whether a GP, pharmacy, a Maori or Pacific health provider or one of the bigger vaccine clinics,” WellSouth associate Maori health strategy and improvement officer Peter Ellison said.
“We’re reaching out and making an offer to help and supporting people to access the Covid vaccination at a time and venue that best suits their needs.”
The new WellSouth staff are making the outbound calls between 5.30pm and 8.30pm on weekdays, when people are more likely to be available to receive calls.
WellSouth chief executive Andrew Swanson-Dobbs said with the national aim of getting 90% of eligible people vaccinated by the end of the year it was important to “exhaust every avenue to reach unvaccinated populations and remove barriers to accessing the vaccine”.
Calls to Maori and Pasifika will continue as the service is needed, and people can also call the call centre on (03) 260-7207 to have a vaccine booked.