A medical student says working at the Te Arawa Covid-19 drive-through vaccination clinic last month was "rewarding and exciting".
The clinic on Clayton Rd in Rotorua is open every Sunday between 10am and 4pm and on Monday between 12pm and 6pm.
Rotorua Hospital-based sixth-year student Aakash Rajay
was one of six University of Auckland students who helped Te Arawa staff one day last month.
Asked how it felt working there, the 23-year-old said: "Rewarding and exciting. We felt like we were a part of something bigger than us and that feeling was fostered and shared by every member of the team.
"There was an overwhelming feeling that we were privileged to be able to help with something so important and that we were making a difference."
Last month it was announced a free hāngī would be given to each person who gets vaccinated at the semi-permanent drive-through.
Rajay said the biggest takeaway from working there was seeing how the nurses connected with those getting vaccinated, regardless of how that person felt. It was also beneficial to see how a Government-enforced policy was implemented at ground level, especially Te Arawa's focus of by Māori for Māori.
"We heard so many stories of people who were getting vaccinated for the first time, and people who were the first in their family to get vaccinated. It was an emotional experience for some, but a significant experience for everyone," Rajay said.
"It really felt like we were meeting the community where they were, not just expecting them to come to us."
The students helped assist nurses with vaccinations, confirmed details of patients, and entered batch numbers and site details into the immunisation database. Rajay said they also did plenty of dancing and celebrating of milestones like reaching every 100 doses administered throughout the day.
Mackenzie Groos, 21, said others worked from car-to-car to hui with people after their vaccine, which was a good job to have because they would deliver the hāngī as people left: "You end up being everyone's favourite, especially around lunchtime."
Connie Alarcon, 24, said her biggest takeaway was the reasons behind the decision for people to come and get vaccinated.
"Most of the time it wasn't about personal beliefs but about whānau; whether that was having an exposed job and wanting to protect flatmates or protecting their nan who they lived with," Alarcon said.
"Then you got others that finally felt comfortable getting it after their friends had. At the end of the day, the most important thing is they got it.
"As a bonus, it won't just protect whānau around them but strangers, with potentially other health issues that they will encounter, whether that be directly or indirectly."
Theresa McLean, 22, was inspired to see people get vaccinated despite having hesitant whānau.
"These people still come, despite having been exposed to scary information from sources who don't understand science.
"People are making the choice to be brave, and protect themselves, and their community. This is so important because Covid-19 is going to be in our communities soon.
"Seeing people getting vaccinated has helped me learn that what seemed an easy choice for me, required much more courage for some others and it is important to realise this."
Rebecca Veitch, 23, said it was "inspiring" to be part of an enthusiastic team who made getting the vaccine accessible for many, doing so with "empathy and aroha".
Daham Nanayakkara, 23, said studying for a career in health had been challenging during a pandemic but spending time on the ground allowed the students to take their textbook knowledge and put it in a clinical context.