Health authorities in Tairāwhiti have called for continued vigilance after a confirmed community case of Covid-19 in Northland.
Calls have been renewed for anyone with cold or flu symptoms to be tested for Covid-19, to keep the community safe.
Hauora Tairāwhiti District Health Board chief executive Jim Green is pleading with everyone to act promptly if they begin to feel sick, and says the community testing centre is “ready to step up” if there is an increase in the number of people requesting tests.
“Please continue to be vigilant,” Green said.
This comes as the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced a 56-year-old Northland woman had tested positive for Covid-19 on Sunday.
Minister for the Covid-19 response Chris Hipkins this morning said two of the women’s close contacts, the woman’s husband and hairdresser, had since tested negative.
Meanwhile, planning had started for the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine in Tairāwhiti, with health authorities concentrating on “overcoming barriers” including geography and the community’s understanding of vaccination.
“Plans include ensuring that vaccination is available in various settings to meet the diverse needs of our population,” Green said.
“We will ensure people have the facts about the vaccine and what it will achieve.”
Medical professionals in Tairāwhiti have previously reported the impact of misinformation and rumours about vaccinations on the region’s immunisation rates.
Hauora Tairāwhiti recorded the country’s lowest immunisation rates for babies aged eight months, with only 78.8 percent receiving all shots on time last quarter.
The MOH said vaccinating border workers and essential staff would be the first priority.
Vaccines were expected to be delivered to frontline workers in the second quarter of 2021, with the aim of starting vaccination of the general public in the second half of the year.
This would be dependent on Medsafe approving the vaccines as being safe and effective for use in New Zealand, the MOH said.
Green said they would work with health partners, including iwi, to roll out the vaccination programme.
“We want to ensure the right person is vaccinating in the right place,” he said.
The value of partnership was proven during last year’s flu vaccination programme in which record numbers of Tairāwhiti people were vaccinated.
“Our local iwi health organisations and their ‘whatever it takes’ approach were huge contributors to this result,” he said.
Trained vaccinators in Tairāwhiti worked across primary care, pharmacies, and the district health board, however, they planned to train more vaccinators and employ support people to help roll out the programme.
Hauora Tairāwhiti medical officer of health Dr Osman David Mansoor said once the vaccine was in Tairāwhiti, it became an “additional tool” to control spread that arose from any border failures.
“The vaccine likely prevents spread, as well as protecting against the disease. We expect to see data on how well it does this from overseas studies [where] millions of doses of the vaccine have now been given. Together with data from vaccine trials so far, vaccine safety is being confirmed.”
He advised people to continue washing their hands regularly, staying home when sick, turning on the bluetooth on their phone and scanning wherever they went.
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