13 Oct 2021

West Coast vaccination drive: 'We sit down with them and have a cup of tea'

5:46 pm on 13 October 2021

Four-wheel-drive mobile vaccination clinics are to hit the road on the West Coast in a bid to reach the most isolated communities.

Driving toward the West Coast.

Mobile vaccination clinics will be operating in the West Coast next week. Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

The mobile clinic is being run by health provider, Poutini Waiora, which is owned by Poutini Ngai Tahu, and supported by West Coast District Health Board.

The clinics were launched at Arahura Marae today by Associate Minister of Health Peeni Henare.

Ngai Tahu chairperson Lisa Tumahai said the three four-wheel-drive vehicles would start operating from next week.

She said they would allow better access for people in rural areas to the Covid-19 vaccine.

"If we are heading down to Fox or Franz Josef it could be (held) in one of the community gathering places down there. If we have to go to the farm gate, we will go to the farm gate. If we need to go to the whitebait stand, we will go to the whitebait stand. We will go to where ever we need to go to get our people vaccinated."

Tumahai said transport issues, people not having access to the internet to book the vaccine, and lack of face-to-face information were all barriers.

Ngāi Tahu kaiwhakahaere Lisa Tumahai

Ngāi Tahu kaiwhakahaere Lisa Tumahai Photo: Supplied

As of 3 October, only 37 percent of Māori aged between 20 to 34 years old on the West Coast had received one vaccination, and only 60 percent of Māori aged between 35 and 49 in the area. This compared to 88 percent of Māori aged over 65.

Lisa Tumahai said she believed the low rates were more about lack of access than vaccine hesitancy.

She said kaupapa Māori clinics provided a safe and familiar space that could remove some of the uncertainty and anxiety.

"We sit them down with them and have a cup of tea with them. When they are going through the marae we have a conversation at the beginning.

"Just see how they are, not just necessarily talk about the vaccine but about other things going on in the community and in their life. They'll come on through and have their vaccine and when they come out to the observation area they will then have a cup of a tea and a sandwich and a kai before they go home.

"They can have another another conversation about their vaccine journey and get information that they require. It's quite different to sitting in line at the pharmacy getting your jab and you're out the other door."

The locations for the mobile clinic will be published on the [www.poutiniwaiora.co.nz Poutini Waiora website].

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