So far, 3.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered to Kiwis - 2.29m are first doses while 1.21m are second doses. That’s 50% of New Zealanders who have received their first dose and 26% who have received their second.
At the close of August, 47,733 of 260,475 identified Pacific peoples had received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine, most of them older individuals.
At Tāmaki Health, Director of Nursing Rachael Scully with the support of highly knowledgeable vaccination nurses and administrators has been tackling the issue of vaccination access for Māori and Pacific whānau, working over the past few months to get five unique vaccination sites in South and West Auckland – and counting.
Community Liaison Manager Lorenzo Kaisara caught up with Rachael last week to see how things were going at the sites at alert Level 4, and the best way for Māori and Pacific people to get the most up-to-date and accurate information on the Pfizer vaccine (Comirnaty) to make an informed decision for their health.
Is now the right time to get vaccinated?
One of the biggest concerns when Delta hit the community, was whether this would have a negative impact on vaccination rates while people wondered if Level 4 was the right time. Rachael says that in Level 4, it’s more important than ever to get vaccinated.
“We’ve had some really great turn out. I think what’s happened at level 4 is we had a lot of fear around specifically our Māori and Pacific whānau coming to get vaccinated and whether this is the right time to get vaccinated because they’re out in an area where the Delta variant is very transmissible.”
However, encouraging people to attend vaccination sites didn’t come without a high level of care and planning to ensure the safety of the community.
“In order for Tāmaki Health to keep everyone safe, what we did is close down for one day and realigned our vaccine sites to ensure that people coming through could safely social distance, they were looked after and their safety was maintained. After that, we opened up again.”
For Māori and Pacific whānau, it’s not only about ensuring that the sites are as safe as possible from the Delta variant, but that the space itself is welcoming and community focussed. Rachael explains;
“Our Pacific Island Church vaccination site in Ranui has really supported PI whānau to come through. It’s a place of worship which is also a very humbling experience for Tāmaki Health staff because it’s a beautiful place. We’re being very well looked after and the people who come through our centre are well looked after as well.”
Booking systems can be a barrier to access
Easy and equitable access is a founding principle for Tāmaki Health, and this extends to the vaccination sites as well. In terms of locality, the five vaccination sites are well placed to serve South and West Auckland communities, with further locations in the works. However, Rachael says that site location isn’t the main barrier to access that they’re seeing.
“We’re not too vastly challenged as far as access is concerned, what we want to do for our whānau is to ensure there is access for everybody. Some of the challenges that we have endured are that the booking system might not be quite right and whānau don’t understand that there is a booking system that we use.”
It’s for this reason that Rachael emphasises the importance of walk-ins and supporting people through the booking process where we can.
“Some people don’t have an understanding of how to use that booking system, so when they do come to our site we ensure that vaccines are still accessible to them – we don’t turn them away. We help them to use the booking system and support them through the vaccine site by allow them to walk in. That’s the best way to have our Pacific whānau come through.”
The best way to beat misinformation? Come in and ask
One of the biggest reasons for vaccine hesitancy is the misinformation that is circulating and causing confusion. Rachael says the best way to beat the confusion is to ask.
“I would encourage those who are a little bit hesitant to come through because we have information about COVID-19 facts from the Ministry of Health, and also we have ‘getting your COVID-19 vaccine and what to expect’ information. Our staff are very knowledgeable about answering those questions.”
In fact, simply heading down to the clinic to ask has seen some positive outcomes already.
“We’ve opened our Stoddard Road site today and I had a young Samoan boy come through and he was such a delight. He was very nervous and he decided that he would come and get his vaccine. We had a big korero around the vaccine and I vaccinated him, and he said “oh, have you finished?” I said yes, and he said “that was easy aye!”
He then said he was going to ring his Mum, and his Mum and Dad ended up driving down here and we vaccinated Mum and Dad soon after.”
The best part, Rachael adds, was the word of mouth encouragement that lead to a whole family being protected against the virus.
“He went out and he was an advocate for us. We weren’t the ones that talked to Mum and Dad, it was their boy. Their young son went out and said these are the vaccine facts, this is what to expect, and then we brought them in into a place of safety where they felt welcome. His Mum said, “Oh, I don’t know what I was worried about!”. She gave her husband a tap and said “now you go get it”.
So that’s a really positive outcome for that whānau because now, they have the first dose. I’m really humbled that young Samoan boy was an advocate for the rest of his whānau.”
So far, Tāmaki Health vaccination sites have administered over 60,000 vaccinations to the community, with plans to expand to further South Auckland locations and implement outreach initiatives.