3 Mar 2021

Older people should be next group to get vaccine - retiree

6:50 pm on 3 March 2021

A retirement village resident says older people should be a priority group for receiving for the Covid-19 vaccine.

Depressed elderly widow sitting alone at home

Photo: 123RF

Front line border workers and their families have been at the front of the queue to get the jab. After that, non-border frontline health workers are next.

Eric Henry, a resident at Summerset Falls retirement village in North Auckland's Warkworth, said older people should be the first group in the general population to get the jab.

He does not question that border and health workers should be the priority groups, but he said older people should come afterwards.

"After that I think there is a case for the older people to get it, because they are in the vulnerable group. The younger people are not in the vulnerable group."

He believed most older people in retirement villages would get the vaccine.

"They recognise they are in a vulnerable group, they take care of their health best they can and they're very conscious of the closeless in the village [to their] ... neighbours and friends. I would think there [would be] a very high percentage prepared to take it."

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins has not revealed the next priority group to get the vaccine, but he said this decision was in the works.

"How we sequence things might be a little different to other countries, and our circumstances are different [as] we don't have Covid-19 spreading in the community," he said.

"So what we want to do is really focus in on risk. So first of all, who is most at risk of getting Covid-19 and who is most at risk of having an averse consequence if they did get Covid-19."

Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, said the biggest risk factors were age and pre-existing health conditions.

He said the Ministry of Health's advice to the government on what group should get the vaccine next took this into consideration.

New Zealand Aged Care Association chief executive Simon Wallace understood vaccination of the country's 40,000 aged care facility residents and 30,000 staff would begin in April and be finished by June.

He was satisfied with the scheduling of the vaccine roll out.

"There are a lot of priorities and I think all New Zealanders would like to see the roll out happen quickly, but it's also got to be done safely and effectively as well.

"We are in constant touch with the vaccine officials at the Ministry [of Health] and we're happy with the current roll out."

He said some older people in aged care facilities were vulnerable and needed to be vaccinated at their place of residence.

"Our residents have some very acute health conditions - they have what we call 'co-morbidities' - and that means all our rest home residents must be vaccinated on site, they can't go to a hospital ... We are working through all those logistics with the Ministry of Health at the moment."

Retirement Village Residents Association president Peter Carr supported the government's strategy so far, with frontline border and health workers getting the jab first.

Epidemiologist Michael Baker said New Zealand was fortunate that it even had the luxury of being able to roll out the vaccine in an orderly way compared to overseas where getting the vaccine could be a life-or-death concern.

Age Concern Auckland chief executive Kevin Lamb urged Aucklanders to check in on the elderly during the alert level three lockdown in the city.

He said people may feel more anxious and isolated, particularly those who lived alone and were forced to stay home.

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