Doing the vaccine mahi in Murupara

Published on Rāpare, 18 Whiringa ā-rangi, 2021

Before September 9, residents of Murupara couldn’t get a COVID-19 vaccination in the local town. Whānau had to travel 45 minutes to an hour to neighbouring Rotorua, Whakatāne or Taupō.

A lack of vaccine supply and vaccine hesitancy within some of the community has contributed to low vaccine rates in the area.

But together, Te Puna Ora o Mataatua and local iwi Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Manawa and local hauora providers Te Ika Whenua Hauora are working hard to break down these barriers and vaccinate local whānau.

September 9 brought the town’s first drive-through vaccination where 126 whānau received the vaccine in their own town for the first time.

Te Akauroa Miki, Vaccine Team Lead for Te Ika Whenua Hauora says the Thursday drive-through has been held every week since, and it’s making a difference.

“It works well because it’s located behind an office block so it’s nice and private. People don’t feel judged, and they can keep their decision to themselves,” he says.

To help boost the efforts of those on the frontline, Te Ika Whenua Hauora recently received $600,000 from the Māori Communities COVID-19 Fund, administered through Te Puni Kōkiri, Te Arawhiti and the Ministry of Health.

Te Akauroa says offering more vaccination days is on the horizon for the community as more clinical and administration staff have been hired, and a Portacom (portable unit) leased for 12 months.

“The Portacom is a private space for people to get vaccinated and it’s perfect for observations.”

Te Akauroa says the goal over the next eight weeks is to administer 750 vaccinations which will bring the first dose rate to 90%.

“The surrounding communities who we also resource, are also making the most of the vaccination clinics."

With more people becoming eligible for booster shots, and the likelihood those under 12-years-old can be vaccinated, there is a 12-month plan to offer vaccinations in the town up to six days a week.

Another big target for Te Ika Whenua Hauora is to have its own refrigerator for vaccines.

“Our vaccines are dropped off from staff at Whakatāne hospital for the Thursday drive-throughs, so it’s a big goal of ours to have our own fridge.”

But it’s not just about vaccines, Te Akauroa says.

“Being a local provider, we hope we can increase the trust of our whānau towards vaccination. There is a sense of fear and separation because of the mandates, but we are simply here to provide a service to our community.”

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