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Ministry of Health figures questioned

Story by Soumya Bhamidipati

Wairarapa’s covid-19 vaccination rollout is about 2000 doses behind schedule, but a member of a district health authority said the plan is not a good marker to measure against.

Justine Thorpe, speaking at a Community and Public Health Advisory Committee [CPHAC] meeting last week, said Wairarapa District Health Board should be proud of what it had achieved in the covid-19 vaccination space.

“The Ministry of Health statistics don’t actually fairly represent how well we’re doing because it’s based on numbers that were given months ago in uncertain times, and every DHB uses a different way to calculate those numbers, so we’re not measuring apples with apples,” Thorpe said.

“When I look at the data and compare between us here and in Wellington, the Wairarapa percentage of population is much higher than some DHBs.”

Wairarapa DHB had administered at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine to about 50 per cent of Group 3 and expected to have invited the other 50 per cent to book by the end of the month, Thorpe said.

“I know that other regions are not in that position,” she said.

“I think that ministry table is a false picture of what’s really happening and we should be really proud of the progress that is being made with the covid vaccination in Wairarapa.

“If you actually look at numbers and percentages and forget about the ministry table, of a percentage of population, we’d be pretty up there.”

Thorpe hoped the newly opened and iwi-led Tekau ma iwa clinic would improve vaccination equity, and acknowledged the collaborative work between the DHB, medical centres, and primary health organisation Tu Ora Compass Health.

According to the Ministry of Health’s covid-19 vaccination schedule, the DHB was expected to have delivered 18,010 doses by July 11. It had administered 15,401 of these, meaning it was 2609 jabs behind schedule.

Although it had picked up the pace in the week ending July 11 and delivered 578 more injections than expected for that week, this was not enough to make up for the four weeks of falling short which preceded it.

Ministry covid-19 vaccination programme group manager of operations Astrid Koornneef said they expected implementation to vary among DHBs, as had been the case throughout the programme’s rollout.

“Each takes an approach that best works for their communities within the overall framework. Additionally, vaccination rates between DHBs are not directly comparable due to differences in population size, ethnicity, age, disability, and workforce type, which influences priority groupings.”

She said each DHB had an agreed plan to vaccinate their communities, “which includes the number of doses they plan to administer each week, how they will access various target groups within their communities, and the priority of vaccine administration given to these groups”.

These plans were updated weekly on the ministry’s website, Koornneef said.

Regional Public Health’s Dr Stephen Palmer, who also attended the CPHAC meeting, said covid-19 had become a political issue.

“In one sense, it’s really good that politicians are looking at and showing interest in a health matter, but then again,” Palmer said, “what you see is the dynamics at the political, national level and so things like vaccine hesitancy get amplified by the news media and problems with the immunisation campaign, small things get amplified out of all proportion.”



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