14 Sep 2021

Offering tests and vaccines at same time not appropriate - DHB boss

1:16 pm on 14 September 2021

Counties Manukau DHB says it is not looking to vaccinate people at the same time they are getting a Covid-19 test, because it's better to keep the two groups separate.

No caption

Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Focused testing in seven Auckland suburbs has resumed today, with people encouraged to get a swab even if they don't have symptoms.

The suburbs are under scrutiny from health officials because of their association with clusters or links to mystery cases.

Counties Manukau DHB chief executive Margie Apa told Morning Report at this stage health officials were not going to offer to vaccine at the same time, and the focus remained on testing.

Apa, who is also the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre lead, said discussions had taken place over the possibility of merging the two services to increase efficiencies, but the idea was problematic.

"Testing is usually offered to those who are symptomatic and people who are coming for vaccination are generally well. So, well don't really want to mix that," she said.

No caption

A drive-through vaccination site in South Auckland. Photo: Supplied / ADHB

The focus needed to remain on testing and casting a wide net over those suburbs associated recent mystery cases. There were 9000 tests carried out yesterday and Ara wanted to see that figure remain high.

"Certainly, we'd like to see testing well above 9000 - 10,000 daily rate," she said.

"The focus today and for the rest of the week is really to get testing in particular areas… We've got community testing centres within five-to-10 minutes' drive to each of those suburbs."

She said reasons for establishing testing sites in locations were based on a number of factors, including unlinked positive cases coming into Middlemore Hospital.

"We just want the cast our net wide over these suburbs, just to make sure that we don't have any cases sitting out there. We're also mindful that some of the cases that came in last week, while we detected one, they came from large households.

There were a number of other people in the house ended up testing positive. So, we want to offer an accessible testing site for these suburbs."

There have so far been no positive test results back.

Drive-through centres allowed the whole family to come and made testing more accessible, she said.

A mobile testing vehicle also allowed extra capacity to reach out to communities further, Ara added.

Auckland vaccinators are in the final stages of plans for mobile clinics that will go street to street.

A social media information campaign alerting people to the services at hand had been under way, while there were 200 GP clinics in the area that provide testing as well, she said.

Pasifika immunologist Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu said it was great to see the government was finally listening to repeated calls from the Maori and Pasifika communities to drop the "one size fits all" approach.

Dr Sika-Paotonu

Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu. Photo: Otago University

Sika-Paotonu, an immunologist at the University of Otago's Pacific office in Wellington, told Morning Report the health system needed to meet people where they were.

She said the health system had to break down barriers - like transport - for Māori and Pasifika to get vaccinated, and mobile clinics were one way to do that.

Sika-Paotonu said she hoped to see more initiatives like the mobile vaccination centres on the streets.

"This is a great way to be able to engage with Pasifika but also with our Māori communities. What's been really needed here is a focus on 'equity approaches'- doing what it needs to take to get the outcomes that are needed," she said.

"Previously we have relied within the health system on more of an equality approach, the one-size-fits-all, doing the same thing for everyone and expecting outcomes will be great for all, when we know that that doesn't actually work for Pasifika and our Māori communities."

She said there had since been some very successful community-led events and activities and that mobile testing vehicles would work, but only if Pasifika-driven from the outset.

"I think in principle yes, so long as the preliminary steps needed take place and what I mean by that is whenever initiatives are rolled out they involve our Pasifika health workforce," she said.

"So, actually having our Pasifika workforce involved right from the start and not pulling them in at the last minute to try and make things work."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs