TURANGA Health administered nearly 10 percent of the country’s total Covid booster immunisations in four hours during one day in Patutahi in April.
Community providers are leading the charge for immunisation, says Turanga Health chief executive Reweti Ropiha. “No appointments, no queues, close to home, and all with a friendly face.”
Turanga Health has led the region in its winter preparedness by taking its vaccination drive-through events around the rohe since April. Whānau can get Covid-19, influenza, childhood, and hapū wahine vaccinations at the one-stop venues.
They look and feel like the Covid-19 vaccination clinics of old because that’s what they’re modelled on, says Mr Ropiha. “This is a good alternative to the bricks and mortar style of immunisation which in these new times has been proven not to work.”
On Sunday 30 April, outside Ngatapa Rugby and Associated Sports Club, Turanga Health staff administered 256 vaccines in four hours. Of those, 61 were adult or child Covid vaccinations, 164 were to prevent influenza, and 21 were childhood immunisations.
Mr Ropiha says the community vaccination event was led by kaimahi that people know, in a place that people feel comfortable. It’s how Turanga Health delivers most of its vaccinations and it equates to higher vaccine uptake.
“That day we were responsible for 9.6 percent of all boosters administered across Aotearoa that day. It shows us that drive-throughs are a familiar concept and attract more people.” The experience we offer fosters goodwill and participation which is vital right now as we see vaccination figures declining around Aotearoa, added Mr Ropiha.
Childhood immunisation rates have fallen to critical levels, a recent Immunisation Taskforce report has found. The report says that at 6 months of age, just 45.9% of Māori were fully immunised compared with 72.8% for Pākehā. Worryingly, that immunisation rate for pēpi Māori has dropped down drastically from 80 percent in early 2020.
The decline in childhood immunisation is now putting our tamariki at real risk of preventable diseases, says Mr Ropiha. Three babies have died from vaccine-preventable whooping cough this year. “The best way we can protect ourselves is to ensure māmā are vaccinated and pēpi get their first immunisations at 6 weeks, 3 months, and 5 months."
By the end of April, Turanga Health had held 11 rural and town drive-through vaccination clinics (30 hours), 8 workplace clinics (16 hours), and 5 Turanga Health clinics (8 hours).
In April 1,232 vaccinations were administered during the 30 hours of community clinics, equating to nearly 1.5 vaccinations a minute. “The one-location drive-throughs are an efficient, convenient, and safe way to vaccinate large groups of people in town or smaller groups in rural areas.”
Figures show that Māori participation in Turanga Health’s community clinics was just over 50 percent, and just over 40 percent in the workplace settings.
Mr Ropiha says male and female kaiāwhina trained vaccinators make a difference at the drive-throughs. Formerly the realm of nurses, Turanga Health was this country’s first iwi health provider to train kaiāwhina to vaccinate. The organisation now boasts 15 kaiāwhina vaccinators providing a range of immunisations. Ten of them are involved in training to be able to administer a vaccination they are not currently qualified for.
Staff mostly work outside, and Cyclone Gabrielle didn’t dampen Turanga Health’s efforts to vaccinate. “Turanga Health continued its mahi straight after Cyclone Gabrielle and that continuity of care seamlessly moved into winter and childhood vaccinations.”
At each vaccination event Turanga Health invites whānau feedback. Most people discover the drive-throughs through word of mouth, and they attend to improve their health or to support other whānau. Many say they come just to connect. In April whānau were asked to rate their satisfaction with Turanga Health’s vaccination events as a percentage. The Elgin vaccination day scored 84 percent, Manutuke 85, and Patutahi 98.
“As an iwi health provider, we’ve been charged with taking a bigger role in strengthening kaupapa Māori services. Māori-led initiatives like this build the resilience of vulnerable Māori communities and help manage the impact of avoidable disease.”
Mr Ropiha says drive-through vaccinations are here to stay and will undoubtedly lead to better outcomes for iwi health.
One-location vaccine drive-through clinics are coming to a town or village near you. Visit www.turangahealth.co.nz to see where the next vaccination clinic is being held.
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