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Featherston rushes to vaccinate

Featherston residents queue for covid vaccines at Anzac Hall. PHOTO/SUE TEODORO

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Hundreds of Featherston residents are hurrying to get covid vaccinations after four positive cases were identified in the town last week.

More than 200 attended a vaccination clinic at Anzac Hall on Saturday, with many arriving early and queueing in the sun to ensure their spot.

South Wairarapa District Council mayor Alex Beijen said 201 vaccines were administered at the pop-up clinic, which stayed open for an extra hour until 4pm to cover demand.

Beijen said that, before the scheduled 10am start, long queues of cars were already waiting. Estimates were that more than 150 vehicles had arrived early.

“There’s been huge demand for the boosters. It’s gratifying that people are reacting as responsible members of the community and doing whatever they can to limit the risk to others,” he said.

“Booster shots are going to be vital to reducing the impact of covid on people’s health and our health system.” Beijen said.

Featherston residents had reacted supportively to the announcement of the four known cases in the town, with comments on social media wishing the group well.

Since the four announced last Thursday, the Ministry of Health [MOH] has notified no further Wairarapa cases. All four are now in isolation.

More than 10 locations of interest across the region have been identified in the past two weeks.

The region has a high vaccination rate, with 93 per cent of those eligible double jabbed and 96 per cent having had at least one dose.

In addition to the Featherston clinic, vaccines were administered in Masterton at the weekend. While many were boosters, some were getting first or second shots.

Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty commended the high vaccination numbers. “It’s an awesome showing. The numbers speak for themselves.”

He said while it was early days, initial signs in the outbreak were promising.

“It’s encouraging and not unexpected,” he said, referring to the limited spread of infection.

He said information was available, and contact tracing was able to happen. Contact tracing means people can be isolated. That, with other measures, was aimed at limiting spread.

“We are not out of the woods yet, but it is encouraging. We have to continue to carry on as normal and follow the public health guidelines.”

He described the region’s vaccine rate as ‘excellent’ but said vaccination needed to continue. He urged those eligible to get boosters, especially with the looming threat of the highly contagious omicron variant.

“At the first opportunity, people should get their boosters,” he said.

“Medical evidence shows covid-vaccination boosters are the best defence against that variant.”

He said public health measures were working, and life should continue as usual.

“We have shown through the traffic light system we can carry on business as usual, even with cases in the community. The key thing is those of us that are vaccinated have that protection. This is the system working.”

He urged people to continue to patronise places identified as locations of interest.

“They are doing all the right things by just closing. It’s nothing more than bad luck they are in this position.”

Wairarapa DHB chief executive Dale Oliff strongly encouraged people to get boosters.

“Current evidence shows that immunity produced by the covid-19 vaccine reduces over time, particularly from four to six months after a primary vaccination course,” she said.

Oliff said the fresh doses were given to “boost” the immune response to previous antibody levels, similar to tetanus and measles vaccines.

“We are encouraging everyone aged 18 and over who has been fully vaccinated for at least four months to get a free booster now. Speeding up the booster rollout is one of several ways we are protecting Aotearoa New Zealand from current variants of covid-19,” she said.

“While a two-dose course provides some protection against severe disease from the Omicron variant, a booster is likely to offer greater protection by reducing the chance of more serious infection and the risk of transmitting it to others.”

  • Information about where to get free covid vaccinations is at http://www.wairarapa.dhb.org.nz/news-and-publications/covid-19/covid-vaccination/

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