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Rural school helps the DHB with their vaccine drive

 Kahutara School principal Charmaine Taplin [right] with Sophie and Jack Laing, Stylish the dog, Silly Billy the lamb, and the DHB vaccination team. PHOTOS/SUE TEODORO

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A timely community vaccination event in rural Wairarapa is part of a significant vaccine drive by Wairarapa DHB as thousands remain unvaccinated across the region.

New figures from the DHB showed 85 per cent of the eligible population had at least one dose, but more than 6000 remained unvaccinated.

A DHB spokesperson said to reach the 90 per cent target, at least 2200 more people needed to have the first dose, and everyone with one dose should get their second.

“That makes about 8000 more doses needed to push Wairarapa past the 90 per cent fully vaccinated marker,” they said.

Dr Harsha Dias, a GP at Pae tu Mokai Featherston Medical, said the practice was increasingly worried.

“We have 766 patients in our practice that have not had a single vaccine,” he said.

Of those, 194 were Maori.

“This is a concern to us because 50 per cent of new cases in Auckland are Maori. We are worried for our unvaccinated patients,” he said.

He encouraged people to speak to staff at the practice.

At the same time, an enterprising Wairarapa rural school principal has combined public health with a key annual event to help the community.

Charmaine Taplin, principal of Kahutara School in South Wairarapa, said her own farming family’s difficulty finding time for vaccines gave her the idea to invite the DHB mobile team to the school’s annual ‘Pet Day.’

Good numbers got vaccinated at the event, which Taplin described as a great success.

She said the traditional day, with children bringing calves, lambs, horses, dogs, cats, and ‘miscellaneous pets’ to school, provided a perfect opportunity for parents and even eligible children to get inoculated.

Against a background of excited children, gumboot-wearing adults, and the sound of lambs bleating, the mobile clinic fitted in rather well. Taplin described how the clinic got invited.

“My son works on a farm. He’s a dairy farm manager and a parent at the school. His wife rang to say he couldn’t make it in to get vaccinated. He couldn’t get off the farm. He couldn’t get into his appointment in Featherston. So, the DHB vaccination team said, ‘can we pop out and give it to him?’”

They went to the farm there and then and vaccinated him on the spot.

After vaccinating him and others on his farm, the team dropped into the school to see if anyone needed a jab too. Taplin said this was what inviting the group to Pet Day was about and had inspired the idea.

“That day, they came in here, sat in the staff room, and vaccinated a couple of teachers that hadn’t had a chance to get vaccinated,” she said.

She was unsure who would take up the opportunity but said farmers were “flat out” right now.

“They are very busy. They can’t leave the farm. The more people that can be vaccinated, the better.”

Eligible children could be vaccinated with the consent of their parents.

Olive Soper with her chicken ‘Mountain’ at Kahutara School’s Pet and Vaccination Day.

Victoria Shaw from near Greytown was one of the parents who took up the opportunity.

“It was my second one, which I was due to have today in Featherston. I have a husband and mother that are immunocompromised, and so it makes sense for us all to be vaccinated,” she said.

“It was a perfect opportunity. I’m here all day anyway doing stuff with the school, which made it easy for me. In rural communities, people are busy,” she said.

“We’ve just had calving, we’ve had lambing, people are docking, they’re cutting their silage and doing their hay. They don’t have time to be whipping into town.”

Theresa Churchward was the session leader for the DHB mobile vaccine clinic and the team of six. She said they would go anywhere their vehicle could reach.

“It’s about making sure we get to people who can’t get in.”

It was also an opportunity to talk to people if they had concerns.

The DHB spokesperson said reaching 90 per cent fully vaccinated in the eligible population was key to moving ahead.

“We are working hard as a DHB to make that happen and are grateful to all in our community getting on board to help.”

  • More information about vaccination is at wairarapa.dhb.org.nz/news-and-publications/covid-19/covid-vaccination/

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