Vaccination of entire communities in rural Whanganui has begun.
Anyone aged 16 or over is being offered Covid-19 vaccinations in some remote rural areas where it is more efficient and cost-effective to vaccinate the entire population at once rather than according to the Government's tiered national guidelines.
The national vaccination rollout is in its third stage, targeting those aged 65 and over, pregnant women and anyone with a disability or underlying health condition.
In the Whanganui District Health Board area, which includes Whanganui, Rangitīkei and parts of Ruapehu, Māori and Pasifika aged 50 and over and whānau living with them have been included in the local vaccination rollout since May.
Whanganui health provider Te Oranganui, which has been running vaccination clinics in Whanganui city since May, has begun its rural rollout to smaller centres like Waverley, Marton and Rātana, starting with information sessions. Vaccinations will begin at Rātana on Friday, August 6.
In the Whanganui river communities, information sessions have been held at Rānana, Parikino and Kaiwhaiki.
On Wednesday Te Oranganui kicked off a series of clinics for the river communities at the marae settlement of Kaiwhaiki, and a clinic will be held at Matahiwi for all of the River Road on Monday, August 9. A clinic in Pipiriki is also likely.
Te Oranganui chief executive Wheturangi Walsh-Tapiata says it makes logistical sense in smaller communities to vaccinate the entire population.
"In some of our rural, remote areas it's a bit difficult to always follow the national guidelines. What we have said is that we're really committed to vaccinating whānau. If you have a pāhake or if you have someone who fits the other criteria, we're committed to vaccinating everybody in that household. It's a bit ridiculous to have to keep going back into those rural communities and we want to be able to capture them when we are there."
Meanwhile, the Whanganui District Health Board is visiting homes to get the Covid-19 vaccine to the vulnerable - and everyone living in the household.
Registered nurse Brian Elliott has retired three times and Julie Blair, who has an extensive district nursing background, was planning to retire last March.
But now they are busy working as a crucial component in the biggest vaccination programme in Whanganui's history.
Elliott and Blair have teamed up to deliver vaccinations to those in the community who are housebound.
"We are looking after those who cannot get to a vaccination clinic," Blair says.
"They may be disabled, or very frail and elderly – vulnerable people who might otherwise miss out on the vaccination programme."
Each day the pair plan their route, and their travels around the region have seen them vaccinate well over 100 people, with plenty more to come.
"We average 11 houses each day and we vaccinate everyone living there," Blair says.
"It's a long, slow process, but we are loving the work. The people appreciate it so much – everyone wants us to stop for a cup of coffee."
They get their list of referrals from the district nursing database, from GPs and by word of mouth.
In August the team will expand to four.
So far more than 20,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been delivered in the Whanganui rohe.