Ngāti Hine Health Trust opened a new Covid-19 vaccination centre in Whangārei yesterday morning, targeted at vaccinating Māori aged over 65.
"Our Torongare Covid-19 Vaccination Centre has been purpose-built with a whānau-centric lens to serve our Whangārei and surrounding communities," said Ngāti Hine Health Trust chief executive Geoff Milner.
The centre will initially operate two days a week and is complete with a monitoring area, which includes complimentary food and drink. There are a total of five booths set up for vaccinations, with 16 vaccinators' rotating shifts between their day jobs. Clinical nurse lead Angela Hobson says they are aiming to vaccinate between 300-350 people a day.
"Through our hauora service practice, we know manaakitanga is key to engaging with our whānau, and those who might be a little hesitant, so that they're well supported and informed throughout the entire vaccination process in a space that maintains their mana and well-being," Milner said.
According to the Ministry of Health, Northland currently has one of the worst rates of vaccination uptake in the country, second only to the Hawkes Bay region. A total of 24,762 people had received at least one dose of the vaccine at the start of this week, with only 10 per cent of those being Māori.
Alongside the Walton St vaccination centre, Ngāti Hine Health Trust will also be operating vaccination centres in Moerewa, Pipiwai and Russell. Kaumatua and kuia from throughout the rohe will be able to be picked up by a shuttle van service and taken to the clinics. Those wishing to receive a vaccination must first book in via phone by contacting the Ministry of Health or Ngāti Hine Health Trust.
"We aim to meet the expectations our whānau have when engaging in kaupapa Māori services, and ensure a comfortable experience for our kuia and kaumatua, therefore bookings for all of our vaccination sites are essential," says Hobson.
The centre has been funded as a part of the first tranche of funding that was announced by Minister of Māori Health Affairs Peeni Henare in March. A total of $39 million was initially provided to ensure the vaccination programme had a strong focus on preparing Māori whānau and communities for the roll-out. From the $39 million, $24.5 million was allocated for the development of community-based vaccine support services for navigators, co-ordinators, champions across rangatahi, whānau and community, and options for virtual support networks.
"We now have an opportunity to take a proactive stance in an effort to protect our whānau from further hardship, and more importantly, unnecessary loss due to this illness," said Milner.
While there has been some controversy over how many doses can be provided from one vial of vaccine, Milner says they have backstops in place that will ensure there is minimal waste of the Pfizer vaccines. According to Milner, if a booking fails to show up, their dose of the vaccine will be distributed at the end of the day to Ngāti Hine Health Trust staff.
Milner says the Ngāti Hine Health Trust will be ready to support the roll-out of the vaccination to the general population scheduled for the beginning of July.
"We will continue to build capacity to support whānau hauora needs in our urban and rural communities and look forward to working collaboratively with our Ki A Ora Ngātiwai and Te Hau Awhiowhio o Otangarei hauora service providers. Over time, we'll be able to collectively reach and engage with all of our Māori communities, within the Whangārei rohe."