2 Aug 2021

Concern mass vaccination event a no-go for vulnerable people

7:42 pm on 2 August 2021

There are concerns the country's first ever mass vaccination event did not attract vulnerable and vaccine-hesitant groups.

People queue up at mass vaccination in Manukau.

People queue up at the mass vaccination that took place over three days in Manukau. Photo: Screengrab / ADHB

More than 15,000 people were vaccinated over three days, in what has been lauded as a success.

On Morning Report, event co-ordinator Alex Pimm said it was a brilliant achievement.

"I think what we've seen and what we've demonstrated this weekend is that mass vaccination is a model that works for New Zealand and I look forward to future announcements about more events," he said.

A South Auckland GP and chairperson of the Pasifika GP network, Dr Api Talemaitoga, thought the team should be proud.

"It was a massive effort, and you know my hat goes off to them for doing it."

But he cautioned that, while getting the numbers up may sound impressive, the proof of the pudding would be if equity targets had been hit.

"You know, were they mainly Māori and Pasifika who still lagged in vaccination numbers?"

It was a concern echoed by Emeritus Professor of Medicine Des Gorman.

On the one hand he applauded the mass vaccination, but on the other he was anxious about a large group of vulnerable people being left behind.

He said the answer to improving vaccination in vulnerable and hesitant groups lay in primary care.

Professor Gorman said he had met with a lot of vaccine-hesitant people, who responded well when they were able to speak with a trusted professional.

"It is very easy to shift them to the position where that hesitancy evaporates and they are willing to be vaccinated," he said.

"So we really should have run the at-risk vaccination programme through primary care."

Dr Api Talemaitoga

Dr Api Talemaitoga Photo: GREG BOWKER VISUALS

Dr Api Talemaitoga agreed and said there were many patients at his clinic who were waiting until the vaccine was available there.

"They know us, they trust us, we know them and the nurses have been giving them flu injections and other vaccinations, vaccinating their children," he said.

It wasn't a case of either-or, he said, and it was fantastic if mass vaccination centres worked.

"But I'm really keen that we open up general practice because a lot of people who still aren't sure, who might be feeling vulnerable, would rather do this through their GP."

Vaccinologist Helen Petousis-Harris said the mass event was a good way to get vaccination numbers up, but there was room for improvement.

"So actually having to book an appointment for a specific time isn't something that works for everybody," she said.

"However, other ways to access those clinics and get in there might be more suitable so there's a whole lot of little tweaks and things that might be made for reaching as many people as possible."

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff visited the clinic on the day it opened.

He said it was another helpful piece in the jigsaw.

"And it seemed to work well, and with the lessons they might have learned from it as a pilot scheme, I'd be surprised if they didn't replicate that and do it again in the future."

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