Call for more input into how vaccine rollout is handled in rural communities

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The group representing Rural Health say there will need to be a greater level of thought about how the Covid-19 vaccine will be rolled out into rural communities.

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A lack of cold storage facilities and the distance from distribution centres may hinder the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines to rural areas, Rural Health says.
Photo: 2020 Anadolu Agency/ AFP

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the approval for some vaccines may happen as early as next week with mass rollout vaccinations happening later in the year.

Dr Fiona Bolden from the New Zealand Rural General Practice Network was worried the extra staff the government committed to vaccinating people would stay in urban areas.

There needed to be a rural outreach for vaccinators, she said.

“If are going to send in extra staff, which will be really useful, it is about having communication with local clinics so it’s all linked in together so general practices haven’t sorted out a whole vaccination plan programme only to find they [the government organised team] are already doing it,” Bolden said.

Miscommunication had happened before, she said.

“It was certainly our experience with the Covid swabbing, that the DHBs had set up CBACs [community-based assessment centres] in rural areas with no communication with general practices that were already doing swabbing.”

The network had written to the government to offer its support and was hoping it would take that offer, Bolden said.

A lack of cold storage facilities and the distance from distribution centres may also hinder the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines to rural areas.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine needs to be kept at between -60 and -80 degrees Celsius.

A health care worker holds an injection syringe of the phase 3 vaccine trial, developed against the novel coronavirus pandemic by the US Pfizer and German BioNTech company, at the Ankara University Ibni Sina Hospital in Ankara, Turkey on October 27, 2020.

Photo: AFP / Anadolu Agency

Bolden said rural clinics had problems with previous flu immunisations and they did not want that to happen again.

Even delivering vaccines could be difficult, she said.

“Because it needs to be delivered at a certain temperature, and for some rural deliveries that might be difficult unless they think about how they are going to get it to rural areas.

“And then the other thing is we have got less time to then co-ordinate getting people in to have the immunisation done.”

For the people who could not come, such as the elderly and those living in remote locations, “we will have to find a way to get the vaccine out to them”, Bolden said.

Power cuts could be an issue for keeping the vaccine cold as well, she added.

The network was also concerned farmers may hesitate to come in to be vaccinated, which could lead to a chunk of the population missing out.

“There are some people in rural areas, who think they are extremely low risk because they don’t see people as much.

“So I think there maybe needs to be some special work done about those really isolated areas.

“And, there are also people working on their farms well over the age of 65 years old, even into their 80s and the practical thing for them is actually being able to get in for a vaccination.

“It is likely they would put their farm work ahead of themselves getting the vaccine.”

Advice from the Ministry of Health:

  • The recent cases of Covid-19 in Auckland and Northland have been linked to Managed Isolation and Quarantine. There is no evidence so far that suggests community transmission.
  • The locations visited by the recent cases can be found on the Ministry of Health website
  • To help stamp out Covid-19, it’s important the right people isolate and get tested
  • If you were at the locations of interest at the times stated, you need to: isolate away from others, call Healthline 0800 358 5453 for advice on when and where to get tested, and remain isolated until you have a negative test result
  • If you were not at a location of interest at the stated times and you have no symptoms you do not need to be tested
  • If you were not at any of the locations of interest at the stated times, but you have symptoms, call Healthline for advice on 0800 358 5453
  • If you are going to get tested, remember you may have to queue. Please take food and water and continue to be kind to each other and our public health team
  • Everyone should continue to scan QR codes using the Covid Tracer app and turn Bluetooth on to help stop the spread of Covid-19

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