Preparing for Omicron in Te Tau Ihu (top of the South Island)

Published on Rāapa, 22 Hakihea, 2021

“When Omicron hits, we will need to be ready to support our whānau in the community,” says Dr Lorraine Eade, operations manager at Te Kotahi o Te Tauihu Charitable Trust which covers the Nelson, Marlborough, and Tasman region.

Te Kotahi o Te Tauihu has received $250,000 funding from the Māori Communities COVID-19 Fund administered by Te Puni Kōkiri, Te Arawhiti and Ministry of Health to accelerate Māori vaccinations.

The Trust has been working to boost Māori vaccination rates with Te Piki Oranga, Nelson Tasman PHO, Marlborough PHO, Nelson Marlborough Health and Te Hauora o Ngāti Rārua.

Dr Eade says the investment will be used to reach rural communities and they have just bought a campervan to do mobile clinics.

“It’s been absolutely flatstick. In the last couple of weeks, we’ve been working on the COVID hub, on our welfare response and what it’ll mean to have COVID in the community.

“The campervan will enable Piki Oranga to do the mobile clinics. When and if things calm down in the COVID space our eight iwi will be able to use it for other health priorities like cervical screening,” Dr Eade says.

Te Kotahi o Te Tauihu’s initial focus was the under 24-year-olds led by the Ngāti Rangatahi campaign and their vaccination efforts with youth have worked.

When Ngāti Rangatahi first came together in late October, first dose vaccination rates for rangatahi Māori were at 32% but now they were at 83% for under 24 year olds.

“The key learning is we are too ancient to reach that target group but the young people leading it knew how to.  Ngāti Rangatahi had their own clinic, tik tok competitions, gave free haircuts, they made Avatars, and had kai. We also went into colleges with public health to run our Kai and Kōrero programme,” Dr Eade says. 

Having recent COVID cases in Blenheim and Nelson also helped with increasing Māori vaccination rates in the region.

“It reminded people of the importance of getting vaccinated. We were increasing something like 3% a week with the community cases as people wanted to do it. Our next focus is the 25–50-year-olds which are a busy group as they often have jobs and children to look after and drive around,” she says.

Dr Eade says they are busy prepping for 2022 and doing communications around creating a whānau plan for being prepared if COVID hits your house.

“If positive Covid cases increase we want to be there to provide wraparound support. We had a major pack-out of kai in Wairau and Waimeha as with Christmas and school holidays whānau might struggle,” Dr Eade says.  

Ends

Photo caption: Te Kotahi o Te Tauihu Charitable Trust is busy getting food supplies ready for whānau that need it in preparation for the potential spread of Omicron in Te Tau Ihu over summer. Dr Lorraine Eade is pictured in the centre (wearing a grey top) with volunteers at the Wairau base.

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