23 Mar 2021

Covid-19 vaccine: Concerns over future uptake in rural areas

6:52 am on 23 March 2021

The government is being encouraged to think outside the box when rolling out the Covid-19 vaccine into rural communities.

A nurse holds a vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19.

Waikato University professor of rural health Roger Strasser suggests taking the vaccine to rural events might increase farmer uptake. (File image) Photo: AFP or licensors

Earlier this month, the government announced its plan to deliver the vaccine to the wider public.

From May, priority populations will be able to get the vaccine and from July, the remainder of the population will be able to get it.

There have been concerns from some health professionals that the uptake among people living in rural New Zealand could be slow - given some have to travel a long way to see their GP and therefore don't always bother.

Waikato University professor of rural health Roger Strasser said that was a real risk, and there could be an opportunity to take the vaccine to rural events, such as Fieldays and Saleyards, to increase farmer uptake.

"I think it highlights the importance of the vaccination being close to home for the farmers and people who live and work in rural areas," Strasser said.

"Opportunities like Fieldays or other places farmers get together would be worth considering to ensure a high uptake of the vaccine amongst the farmers."

Ultra-low temperature freezers which will be used to store Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine vials.

Freezers that store the vaccine are required to be ultra low in temperature. Photo: Supplied / Ministry of Health

However, Prof Strasser said there were also logistical challenges with that, including the fact that the only approved vaccine in New Zealand - Pfizer/BioNTech - needed to be stored between -60 and -80 degrees Celsius.

He said those were areas that would need to be given more thought.

"There are also some practical issues like training nurses, doctor and other health professionals to safety deliver the vaccine.

"It sounds simple, just to set up a local pub but in practice I think there are some serious logistics that need to be considered first."

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