A collaboration between three medical practices has brought a Covid-19 vaccine hub into the heart of Whangārei that could administer up to 4000 jabs a week.
The pop-up hub has opened with a morning blessing at Kensington Health and welcomes eligible patients of Kensington Health, Central Family Health Care and Bush Road Medical Centre.
"This place is an amazing success story," Nick Swain, Kensington Health managing director, said.
"The vaccine hub is in the perfect place; it's the geographical centre of Whangārei and we are close to our high-needs population."
Together the three GP practices have 23,000 enrolled patients of all ethnicities who make up a third of the urban population.
For now, eligible patients can book an appointment through their GP, though the team hope to expand their service to non-enrolled patients.
The rest of the country started vaccinating people over 60 last week, but Northland began the rollout for over 50s at the end of April.
Next to over 50s, kuia, kaumātua and their whānau (the people they live with and their carers), people with a relevant underlying health condition, someone caring for a person with a disability and pregnant women can get the jab.
Ruth Redfern, Central Family Health Care practice manager, explained that the pop-up hub with extra staff made the vaccine rollout much more viable.
"We simply wouldn't have the staffing or the waiting room space," Redfern said.
Redfern and her colleagues got the Ministry of Social Development on board whose staff work at the reception area.
Pharmacist vaccinators and staff from Jane Mander Retirement Village help the team effort.
Music, coffee and tea as well as artwork from Whangārei Boys High School students help to make the waiting time after the vaccine has been administered (20 minutes) more pleasant.
Redfern hoped that the vaccine hub would also cater to those who might have reservations about the Covid-19 vaccine.
Dairy farmer Mason Smith was one of the first to get a jab on Tuesday morning and said it was a simple procedure.
"My family doctor rang up and asked me if I wanted the vaccine."
It was a no-brainer for Smith whose wife and parents have already been vaccinated and he encouraged others to get it done.
He believed the biggest issue would be for rural communities who have limited access to health care providers.
Kensington Health, who had moved into their new facilities at Kensington Crossing a year ago to the day, had struck an agreement with landlord Northland Regional Council that they could use more space in the building if needed.
The collaboration between the three practices was such a case and the vaccine hub that is just down the hall from Kensington Health will welcome patients as long as it's needed.
Swain said they expect to stay there until February.
According to Swain, it was important to involve GP practices in the national vaccine effort.
"We are the ones who are connected with the community and our patients."
People would be more reluctant to attend a mass vaccine event with health care staff that the patients don't know.
Kerrie Hutchings, lead nurse of the vaccine hub, welcomed the first patients yesterday and was excited to launch the project.
"It's day one so we're still finding out what our teething problems are but so far so good."
Since the start of the vaccine rollout in March, more than 75,000 doses have been administered in the region, according to Northland District Health Board data.
That means at the end of July almost 30 per cent of Northland's eligible population have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
"Reaching the milestone of 75,000 doses in four months is something we are very proud of," Jeanette Wedding, NDHB's senior responsible officer for the Covid-19 vaccine rollout, said.
"This is thanks to the willingness of our community to ensure they are protected against Covid-19 and as a result of the collaboration between Māori health providers, primary care and the DHB who are all working very hard to deliver the vaccine programme."
Nearly 40 per cent of those doses were administered by the 20 general practices, Māori health providers and seven pharmacies who are part of the regional rollout.
Wedding said the DHB's vaccination clinics at Kaitaia, Kerikeri, Dargaville and Whangārei would have additional clinic days and/or extended hours to meet the increase in demand, while Māori health providers continue to provide vaccination services in their communities.
"The DHB is investigating providing further outreach clinics in small towns and rural areas."
Though Northland has been ahead of the national vaccine effort, it will now continue at the same time as the national sequencing.
The Ministry of Health plans to get people aged 45 and over vaccinated from mid to late August, people aged 35 and older join mid to late September and people between 16 and 34 – will have to wait at least until October.
Māori Health Providers doing Covid jabs
Whakawhiti Ora Pai (09) 409 7880
Te Hiku Hauroa 0800 808 4024
Kāeo Covid-19 Vaccination Centre 0800 465 236
Ngāti Hine Health Trust 0800 272 4842
Hokianga Health Trust (09) 405 7709 ext. 709
Te Hau Ora O Ngāpuhi 0800 484 006 Option 1
Te Ha Oranga (09) 439 3013 Option 1
Ki A Ora Ngātiwai (09) 435 4586
Te Hau Āwhiowhio ō Otangarei Trust 0800 120 916