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Joint approach needed for immunisation message

Photo: MOH.

Whakatōhea Māori Trust Board will be advertising for a co-ordinator for a joint communications strategy to help the Ōpōtiki district reach a 90 per cent vaccination rate.

That is just one of the initiatives decided on at a meeting of Opotiki organisations and health providers, held at the trust last Thursday.

It will also be starting a mobile clinic, reaching out to those who have not yet been vaccinated and, together with Whakaatu Whanaunga Trust and Ōpōtiki District Council, creating a series of videos with community champions to help build trusting relationships.

Trust chief executive Dickie Farrar says it was a great meeting.

“There were around 25 to 30 people there. We had GPs, we had pharmacies, district council, we also had the PHO (Primary Health Organisation) and good support from the district health board which provided us with some data.

“The good thing was, we all understood that we needed to work together to make a concerted effort across the whole community. From that, we have identified that there are some strategies we need to put in place. One of these is around our communication, so the right messages go out to whanau.

“We’ve agreed on a joined-up, community programme with structured communication to allow our community to get information from a reputable place that gives them comfort that they can make a decision themselves and give them a better understanding of the impact should they decide not to have the vaccine.”

Farrar says Whakatōhea also plans to start a mobile clinic, kitting out a van to reach out to more areas, and in some cases even going door-to-door.

“Some of the things we talked about was whether we should consider door-knocking on individual doors, because if so, that was going to take a huge co-ordinated effort. Some of our providers in the rural areas have started going door-to-door, touching base with whanau.

“What I have asked our GP practice to do is identify those who have had their first vaccination and follow up with them to see if they are coming in to get their second vaccination and identify those who haven’t had any vaccination and just give them a call.

“Our aim is a 90 per cent vaccination rate. Our pharmacies are also getting on board. One of them is looking to do a Sunday vaccination clinic."

East Coast iwi, Te Whanau a Apanui has had huge success with getting its vaccination rates up to 80 per cent very early on in the vaccination programme by reaching out to its community through marae, but Farrar says Opotiki has many more challenges, being a much bigger and more diverse community.

“That’s a big community to try and get across. So, we’re looking at how we can reach into whanau through trusting relationships.”

Ōpōtiki District Council community services and development group manager Anna Hayward was at last week’s meeting and has agreed to take on the role of interim co-ordinator until the position is filled.

“We met to discuss our united goal to get Ōpōtiki vaccination rates up in time to enjoy a freer Christmas in our wonderful part of the country,” says Hayward.

“It was a chance to bring together local health providers, council, businesses, iwi and the Bay of Plenty Health Board. We are all well aware of the health, social and economic impacts of Covid on our communities and whanau and vaccination is our best tool to buffer the worst of this.

“Each of our organisations has a different role to play so, for the moment, I have stepped into a coordination role to help things run a little more smoothly.

“Because our vaccination rates are lagging behind the rest of the country, we have joined forces to make sure we are all using each other’s strengths and resources to ensure our locals have every opportunity to get vaccinated.

"We want to make it easy to access trusted information and vaccination services and make sure they are highly visible. We want to bring vaccination opportunities to where people are, so that might mean mobile vaccination clinics, business vaccinations or marae-based vaccination drives.”

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