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Worth the shot

Wellington Free Ambulance paramedic Matt Hitchiner was one of the first people in Wairarapa to receive the covid vaccine. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Covid vaccine rollout begins in Wairarapa
Pop-up covid clinics to come

Story by Soumya Bhamidipati

The first covid-19 vaccinations have just been administered in Wairarapa, some two months after other parts of the country.

Healthcare workers were the first to receive the injection on Wednesday at Wairarapa Hospital’s covid clinic.

Nationwide, about 70,000 people had received their first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

The vaccination programme divided people into four groups to prioritise those most at risk. An estimated 50,000 people across the country, consisting of border workers, managed isolation and quarantine workers, and their household contacts, made up the first group.

People who received their first dose this week were part of the government’s second group, as the region did not have anyone who fell under the first category.

Group two was made up of frontline healthcare workers and those living in high-risk places. It was estimated about 480,000 people fell into this category nationwide, and about 4500 people in Wairarapa.

Wellington Free Ambulance extended care paramedic Matt Hitchiner was one of the first to be vaccinated in Wairarapa, rolling up his sleeve at 10am on day one. He was part of Wairarapa’s vaccination team and would soon be involved in administering the vaccine to others.

“Immunisation is important to me and I am pleased to be a small part of the protection programme,” Hitchiner said.

“I am from the UK, and I know only too well the harm caused by the virus. My partner and I know far too many friends and family that have been seriously affected back at home, and we have had family members die from covid.

“New Zealand is in a good place, and the magic ingredient to keep us there is this vaccine. It is great we have started vaccinating here in Wairarapa.”

Wairarapa District Health Board spokeswoman Anna Cardno said rollout of the vaccine for group two in Wairarapa was expected to take about eight weeks.

“[On Wednesday] we vaccinated the vaccination teams and the first of our healthcare workforce. We are scheduling appointments for our DHB staff and inviting all our healthcare partners to book their vaccinations,” Cardno said.

“In a ‘normal year, we vaccinate about 9000 for flu in Wairarapa. This year, we will be preparing to offer two doses of covid-19 vaccinations to our entire population over 16 years of age – which is somewhere near 10 times that.

“It is no mean feat and it will take a lot of time and energy, but it is our priority right now. A lot of people are pulling together to make it happen.”

It was expected group two’s vaccinations would be completed by the end of next month. The DHB would then open community-based clinics to offer vaccinations to group three – older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions.

While the DHB was still negotiating the exact locations for community clinics, one would be in Masterton and the other in South Wairarapa.

“We will also be providing temporary clinics, ‘pop-ups’ or ‘mobile’ clinics, where we can take vaccinations to vulnerable groups, for example, aged residential care or large organisations.”

Those aged 16 and above who did not fit the criteria for groups one-three would fall under group four and would be invited to schedule vaccinations from July.

The DHB was still establishing the estimated number of people in groups three and four.

“We will be keeping our community up to date with where we are at and when they can expect to receive their vaccinations,” Cardno said.


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