Vaccination programme under way

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The major task of immunising Central Otago’s population is a step closer as programmes to deliver the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine get under way in the region.

Dunstan Hospital chief executive Kathryn de Luc said all 180 Central Otago Health Services staff had been offered the vaccine and there had been an enthusiastic response, many booking in to get immunised last week and this week.

‘‘It is a bit of a milestone event, not only for the country but also for our staff.’’

The vaccine programme was a ‘‘whole-of-system’’ response, and Dunstan Hospital had been given help and support by the Southern District Health Board.

Getting the vaccine out had its logistical challenges, Dr de Luc said.

‘‘But basically we have worked through the operational issues needed to deliver the clinics as we need to.’’

The decision was made to vaccinate all staff because, as it was a smaller organisation, everybody at some point could be passing through shared spaces such as the hospital foyer and potentially come in contact with patients, she said.

‘‘It is actually more efficient and effective to actually do everybody.’’

If anyone was nervous about getting vaccinated, Dr de Luc encouraged them to look at the Ministry of Health website to find more information.

Infection control nurse Iza Haspela was the first to receive a jab last week and felt ‘‘good’’ after being vaccinated.

Each person given the vaccine was guided through the process by a dedicated nurse, who asked questions and provided health information.

Data was entered into the Covid-19 immunisation register, and people were given a card that gave them the date to return for their second dose of the vaccine, which would be administered a minimum of 21 days after the first shot, Ms Haspela said.

After vaccination, each person was monitored in an observation area for about 20 minutes.

Adverse reactions were rare, but if someone had an allergic reaction there was an allergy kit available, Ms Haspela said.

General practices across the region were also playing a vital role in the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine.

WellSouth senior communications adviser Moira Finn said more than 18,000 vaccines had been delivered in the Southern region.

More than 5000 of those had been provided by general practices and WellSouth.

Wakatipu Medical Centre and Queenstown Medical Centre held clinics in early April, delivering vaccines in Queenstown.

Targeted populations included border workers and their household contacts, and then frontline healthcare workers .

Wanaka Medical Centre and Aspiring Medical Centre had provided clinics for frontline healthcare workers and local aged residential care facilities Elmslie House and Aspiring Enliven Care Centre.

HealthCentral in Alexandra had led the delivery of the vaccine in Central Otago and surrounding area, including weekend and evening clinics, she said.

The HealthCentral team, supported by other vaccinators from within the region, had provided vaccines to rest-home residents in Alexandra, Ranfurly, Roxburgh and Cromwell.

HealthCentral general manager Jenaya Smith said booking patients and delivering vaccinations was part of what general practices did.

The heightened cold chain requirements of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine made the delivery of the Covid-19 vaccine in primary care slightly more challenging than influenza or MMR vaccines, but the organisation had proven that it was able to be managed in a primary care setting.

‘‘Receiving a vaccine in your usual general practice is a more comfortable and trusting environment for most people,’’ she said.

WellSouth chief executive Andrew Swanson-Dobbs said Southern general practices were keen to be involved and support the implementation of the Covid-19 vaccine programme.

‘‘In particular, many want to deliver the vaccine to their own patients when the time comes — likely July and throughout the remainder of 2021,’’ he said.