Lack of trust, ‘pressure-cooker’ mandates: Why some areas are still struggling to get jabbed

Some areas in the Lakes are lagging behind in their vaccination rates. Figures from the Ministry of Health show in the Lakes District Health Board as of December 1 seven suburbs were still under the 70 per cent fully vaccinated rate. Ngāpuna was the least vaccinated suburb at 60.2 per cent. Talia Parker talks to health professionals in some of these areas about what they have been doing at the coalface.

Lakes District Health Board chief operating officer Alan Wilson said it had been working alongside Te Arawa Covid Hub, Tuwharetoa Health Charitable Trust, Primary Health Organisations and community groups to provide a series of opportunities for people in these areas to be vaccinated.

These have included pop-up clinics at marae, community centres and drive-through hubs.

Events and pop-up clinics continue to be planned through to the end of the year.

”We know vaccination is the best protection against Covid. and significantly reduces the estimated number of presentations to GP, ED attendances, hospitalisations and deaths.”

However, he was concerned about pockets within some communities where the immunisation rates were much lower.

”There is more likelihood of spread – particularly if people are in crowded homes or large households, where close contact and little chance to isolate people who are infected increases the likelihood of spread within that household and into nearby households when people mix.”

Te Manu Toroa chief executive Pat Cook said she was most concerned by vaccination rates for 20-34-year-old Māori residents in the Bay of Plenty.

“They are the least vaccinated group in the country…and probably the least likely to change their minds about the vaccine.”

Cook said Te Manu Toroa’s mobile vaccination clinic had been visiting marae, community centres, parks, churches and large businesses since June.

“Incentivising had some effect on bringing people around. However, we accept that not everyone who can get vaccinated will do so. That is their choice, and it has to be respected.

“But by the same token, they are choosing to be more vulnerable to a potentially deadly virus that could seriously impact them and their loved ones.

“We are beyond the point of vaccine hesitancy now. The type of reasoning against vaccinating that we are coming across is from those who have bought into the misinformation and who also have a mistrust of authority and government agencies.”

A month ago, Te Puke was one of the least vaccinated areas in the region – now, it’s about 85 per cent fully vaccinated.

Poutiri Wellness Centre general manager Kirsty Maxwell-Crawford said the jump was down to strong community collaboration and effort, however, mandated vaccinations had not been helpful.

“It creates a pressure-cooker environment for people to not feel like they’re able to be in control of making the right decision for them.

“When you work in a community you know, it’s about making sure we’re also really clear about why the vaccine uptake hasn’t been as strong as in other areas.

“We can’t assume that it’s just an access issue, because we know based on working in Te Puke that it’s not. There are a lot of people who have chosen not to (get vaccinated) and continue to choose not to.”

She said the most common reason people don’t want the vaccine was trust, as many people’s engagement with government agencies and health had made them gunshy.

“That’s (trust) not going to be repaired over a six-month push for vaccinations when some of this is intergenerational mistrust.”

She said another big reason was needle-phobia, which she said there were strategies to manage for those who want the vaccination.

She said cases in the Bay of Plenty and the looming opening of the Auckland border had seen an uptick in vaccinations in Te Puke.

“For us, Auckland is a concern. All regions are stretched in terms of resources.

“The health sector is tired. We’ve been working extremely hard for the last 20 months.”

The centre will be supporting Ngāti Ranginui in a large-scale vaccination effort on December 11.

Meanwhile, Bay of Plenty District Health Board Covid-19 senior response officer Brent Gilbert-De Rios said community support is critical.

“Empowering communities to get behind the vaccine drive has led to significant gains,” he said.

The DHB was working with community groups in low-vaccination areas and initiatives included pop-up vaccination clinics, engagement with rural areas and education Q&A sessions at workplaces and community centres.

Addressing misinformation and enhancing accessibility was another focus, he said.

“Empowering communities to get behind the vaccine drive has led to significant gains in recent weeks. We’re doing whatever it takes to get as many people in the district vaccinated against Covid.”

Ōpōtiki’s deputy mayor Shona Browne was at a loss over how to raise her community’s vaccine rate above its current 63 per cent.

“I think everyone who is able to are doing everything within their power of persuasion to convince them [the unvaccinated] to get it [the vaccine].”

“What they do, other than what they’re doing at the moment, I really don’t know. But I know they are trying everything within their power to change the tide.”

She said some businesses were already considering closing over the vaccine mandate, as they feared their loyal customersmight not like being asked for vaccine passes.

“It [the fallout of widespread Covid] doesn’t bear mentioning about. It’s a chain reaction from then on, and that worries me.

“We just have to hope that when Aucklanders come down to see us at Christmas, that they will be responsible and we will be responsible.”

“Personal responsibility is the key. It’s part of living in a community.

“If you can’t do that, I really don’t know what the answer is.”

Rotorua suburbs under 70% fully vaccinated

* Pleasant Heights 69.9 %
* Tauhara 69.7 %
* Arahiwi 68.5%
* Pukehangi North 68 %
* Western Heights 63.5 %
* Fordlands 63.4 %
* Ngapuna 60.2 %
Source Ministry of Health as of December 1

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