9 May 2021

Overstayers won't be reported for getting vaccine - Minister

12:48 pm on 9 May 2021

The vaccine is being offered to all residents in a small West Coast town, overstayers who get the Covid-19 vaccine will not have their details shared, and a new ad campaign has launched targeting Māori, authorities say.

MIQ and border workers getting Covid-19 Pfizer vaccine.

Photo: Supplied / Ministry of Health

The government is assuring overstayers they can get vaccinated without fear of problems over their visa status.

Authorities want the best chance at achieving "herd immunity", which means they need to vaccinate as many people as possible.

In parliament this week immigration minister Kris Faafoi said health services must record patient details, but they will not pass those on to immigration officials.

He said people without valid visas could be concerned about getting in trouble if they shared their details, but they can feel safe about getting the vaccine, and details collected during the vaccine campaign would only be used for health purposes.

Reefton residents invited to register to get vaccine this week

The Covid vaccine will be officially available to the general public for the first time starting next week, but only for people living in a small West Coast town.

There's only about 1000 Reefton residents, and they've been offered a chance to get an early coronavirus vaccine.

The Canterbury District Health Board, which covers the West Coast, said a mobile vaccination clinic was planned to operate in Reefton on Thursday.

It is primarily aimed at frontline healthcare workers, emergency service workers and people with underlying health conditions. But everyone else in the town was also invited to also register interest in booking for an appointment on the same day.

DHB acting director of planning Ralph La Salle said as the mobile vaccination clinics worked their way across the West Coast they planned to offer the same at other locations in the future, too.

The rural roll-out was planned to make the most of vaccinating as many people as they could each time they were at a location, he said.

"In consideration of the rural nature of the Coast, our... plan is based on optimising the number of people vaccinated, not the number of vaccination clinics.

"This means that when we set-up our clinics in smaller townships, we will be offering appointments to the wider public."

Throughout the rest of the country vaccines are currently being given to the first two priority groups, including border and MIQ workers, and people living in high risk situations like rest homes. The third group - those over 65 years old, living with a disability or with underlying health condition are expected to be offered the vaccine from late May.

Reefton businessman, Paul Thomas, predicted early uptake would be high in their community.

"We have people from all around New Zealand [visiting], and now we have Australians arriving. So that if we're further protected against Covid-19 through this vaccine being available, I think it just puts us in a much stronger and safer position."

La Salle said there were 26,500 people on the West Coast eligible and expected to receive the vaccine, which is given in two shots, 21 days apart. And the DHB would soon issue more details about other places and days it would be offered.

"Since the programme started in mid-April, around 990 people have received their first Covid-19 vaccination through our Greymouth and Westport fixed vaccination clinics.

"There is plenty of vaccine for everyone, so no-one will miss out. Your patience is appreciated," he said.

The Canterbury District Health Board has previously said it will roll out vaccine to the public in the second half of this year.

Karawhiua! Protect whānau

Māori are being encouraged to karawhiua, or "give it heaps", in a push to encourage strong uptake of the Covid-19 vaccine.

The campaign emphasises the responsibility to protect whānau, and launches today with television adverts and a website.

The advertising features an interview with Ruthie, a young mother who got Covid-19 at a tangi while pregnant, and said receiving the vaccine would now be a priority for her whānau.

"I was the first hapū māmā in Jet Park. I couldn't breathe well on my own. I ended up contracting Covid pneumonia.

"It was really terrifying for us and I don't want other whānau to have to go through what I've been through. If there's a way to prevent that, I would 100 percent take it."

Health Ministry research has shown 30 percent of Māori don't understand the vaccine is free, and 41 percent needed more information about it.

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