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Vaccines reach vulnerable

Workers from the Solomon Islands received their vaccinations last weekend. PHOTOS/SUPPLIED

Story by Soumya Bhamidipati

A new iwi-led covid-19 vaccination clinic has opened on Chapel St, Masterton, while other vulnerable communities attend clinics set up in the hopes of making the vaccine more accessible.

The Tekau ma iwa centre was proposed by and is located behind Whaiora Medical Centre, in the building previously housing Tu Ora Compass Health.

Whaiora general manager Triny Ruhe said most of the staff were from local hapu.

“There is a skilled team people being trained to ensure the smooth operations of the clinic.”

Tekau ma iwa had been gifted its name by a group of Makoura College students who came together after last year’s lockdown. Its literal translation was ‘19’.

Pou rerenga – panui | Tekau ma iwa spokesperson Sophronia Mete-Smith said the rangatahi [youth] talked about mental well-being and how they had been affected by the lockdown.

“Instead of talking about unwellness, they talked about ways of being well. Tekau ma iwa is in reference to 19 ways to whaka ora, to be well.”

Ngati Hamua hapu leader Mike Kawana performed karakia and officially bestowed the clinic’s name at a ceremony last week.

Kawana described the clinic as a “whare haumaru”, a safe place for whanau, achieved through manaaki [support or care], and understanding and sharing whanau experience with compassion and education.

Tekau ma iwa was open on Saturdays from 10am to 5.30pm, though this would soon be extended to include Fridays.

The clinic was a follow-on from Ko Wairarapa Tenei, a network established after the covid-19 lockdown in 2020.

“There was this opportunity because those partnerships had been established,” Mete-Smith said.

“We also knew from talking to our whanau that they respond better when something is under kaupapa Maori [Maori principles].”

About 62 people received a dose of the vaccination on the clinic’s opening day on Saturday, a result Mete-Smith was happy with.

“There’s only two booths here, the maximum we can do is 70 a day so that’s pretty good.”

While the Tekau ma iwa’s booking system was not yet up and running, she said those interested in receiving a vaccination could ring her to register their interest on 0800 655 930. They could also visit the clinic during open hours.

Rangitane o Wairarapa, Kahungunu ki Wairarapa, Whaiora, and Te Hauora Runanga o Wairarapa worked with the Wairarapa District Health Board and the Ministry of Health to provide the clinic as part of their joint commitment to the vaccination response.

Ikaroa-Rawhiti MP Meka Whaitiri stopped at Tekau ma iwa during a visit to Masterton yesterday and said it was an opportunity to ensure Maori were “part and parcel of the vaccination rollout”.

“It’s important that we have Maori-led practitioners reaching out to Maori who generally don’t participate in the mainstream health system. That’s what inequity has produced.”

An iwi-led clinic should be seen as a practical solution to Maori patients missing out, Whaitiri said.

“That’s why it’s critical. It’s not the only solution, but it is a solution to addressing inequities in the health system for Maori.”

The DHB is also running covid-19 vaccination clinics for other vulnerable groups in the community.

Social worker Rochelle with Warren Matthews after his vaccination at the recent covid-19 clinic held at IDEA Services.

According to a DHB spokesperson, one such clinic was held at IDEA Services last Wednesday.

“Making covid-19 vaccinations accessible for everyone is a key part of our rollout planning in Wairarapa, and targeted clinics have featured prominently in our Group 2 and Group 3 delivery,” the spokesperson said.

“It was great to link in with the IDEA Services team, who have such a good connection with their clients.

Another clinic was run for workers in Wairarapa under the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme, with Te Muna Viticulture employees from Vanuatu and JR’s Orchards workers from the Solomon Islands receiving their vaccinations last weekend.

Pacific health navigator Eseta Manesa, who spearheaded the clinic, worked with Pasifika covid liaison Merina Tafa and the Pasifika o Wairarapa team.

The approach allowed the group to combine resources and reach more people.

“It was fantastic to see our Pasifika community coming in with their families and friends and joining together as a community to support one another to get vaccinated,” Manesa said.

She recognised the support provided by community, particularly within the church, and community leaders.

“The support workers from the Fijian, Tongan, Samoan, and Philippines community welcomed everyone with a smile and a laugh, to make our people feel at ease as they walked in,” she said.

The group would return at the end of July for the second dose of the vaccine.

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