It’s All About Community
It’s All About Community
The Public Health team has reason to celebrate this week – and it’s nothing to do with the Christmas season. Instead, they are delighting in the news that the Wairarapa district has had the highest uptake rate of the HPV vaccination anywhere in the country – and that the rate is three times higher than the national average.
“What this means is that our young woman are really taking this on board and are making positive decisions about their own health,” says Tessa-Jane Dennes, the HPV Programme Clinical Planner. “It also means that all those involved with this programme are getting the message out there – that they know their communities well enough and are working collaboratively to ensure that the message is heard.”
That message is this: Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus that can cause cervical cancer. It is easily prevented by a series of three vaccinations, and these are currently free for all young women aged 17 and 18. From early next year it will be available for all girls aged 12 to 18.
“Our success so far has been because of really great collaboration between community members,” Tessa-Jane says, “and it’s not just those directly involved with the immunisation programme either. A lot of other community organisations have come on board, such as Plunket, the Cancer Society, and Mana Wahine. While the young women and families they’re working directly with may not be eligible, they are talking to families, visitors and those who will talk to others about it.
Because of this wide-ranging promotion, local Practice Nurses have reported higher levels of interest from groups that are not eligible for the free vaccination – and some of these people have subsequently paid for the series of vaccinations. Tessa-Jane has also run evening information sessions in each town and says that there has been a variety of people at the meetings, from mothers who would like their sons vaccinated, to parents whose daughters have attended the school sessions and want their parents to know more about why they have chosen to be vaccinated. “It’s not our role to make the decisions about getting the vaccine,” Tessa-Jane says. “Our job is to get the right information out there so that the decisions families make are informed decisions.”
Each of the seven Wairarapa medical practices are administering the vaccine, and Tessa-Jane credits the Practice Nurses involved with doing a fantastic job so far. Those who wish to be vaccinated, or get more information, can also visit outreach clinics at Te Rangimarie (Wednesdays) and Cameron House (Tuesdays).
As the second round of vaccinations gets underway, Debi Lodge- Schnellenberg. Manager of Public Health, has nothing but praise for those involved. “It’s all about community, she says, “and at the moment we’re celebrating that our community is looking after each other and taking up this chance to look after itself.”
While each medical centre in the Wairarapa is involved in the HPV vaccination programme, below we have talked to three practice nurses working in different parts of our community.
Kuripuni Medical Centre
“We’ve had an outstanding uptake – about 85 to 90 percent of our eligible young women have had the first vaccination and we’re just starting on the second round,” says Sheryl. She puts the high uptake down to Kuripuni being a small practice where they have been able to personalise the approach to each young woman who is eligible for the vaccine. “We’ve sent out letters and followed up with phone calls, and by doing that we’ve been able to discuss any issues that have come up, either for the young women or for their parents,” Sheryl says. “Generally, they’ve felt that it’s a really easy thing to do to stop themselves getting the HPV virus which causes cervical cancer and genital warts. They see it as a valuable way of protecting their health.”
“The national advertising campaign and the information to schools has obviously been really good, because the girls coming in to us are well informed and know a lot about it before they come. The young women we’ve seen seem to be very aware of issues and are willing to follow through and look after themselves.”
Masterton Medical Centre
As with Kuripuni, Masterton Medical sent out letters to its eligible patients and are now onto their second round of the series-of-three vaccinations.
“Generally, the girls have been quite responsive and they’re obviously talking about it amongst themselves,” says Jo. “They’ve been coming in steadily since we started in September, often in a little group where they all support each other. A lot also come in with their mums, who are keen for their girls to be protected in a way they aren’t.”
“Some of the concerns people have had are along the lines of ‘is it tested? is it safe?’ because it’s seen as a ‘new’ vaccine in New Zealand. But it’s been around for a while and used a lot overseas, so we’ve been able to discuss any concerns with them and give them really good information.”
“People have thought very carefully about these vaccinations, and have made informed decisions because they’ve been able to get really good information. It’s been a well-managed programme with good resources – such as the ‘remind me’ text that the girls can opt for which reminds them when their next vaccination’s due. That, along with things like good information available on the website, has really helped build confidence in the programme.”
Paula is the practice nurse who works with Doctor Cath Becker at Te Rangimarie Outreach clinic. Located at Te Rangimarie Marae (opposite Douglas Park school), this clinic operates every Wednesday from 8.30 am until 12 noon, and then from 1.00pm until 3.00pm.
“Ours is a great clinic to come and be vaccinated at,” Paula says “and anyone who just wants to know more about it can drop in and we’ll get them the information they need.”
“Because we’re based right in the community, it’s a very non-threatening environment. We’re friendly and it’s free and you don’t need to be organised because we don’t have a booking system. You can just drop in when it suits and girls can come as a group or with whoever they’d like to bring.”
Despite not being located at a medical centre, the clinic is extremely popular and well-attended. Anyone who goes there for their HPV vaccination – or any other health matters receives the same level of care and precautions as in a standard practice.
“While we don’t have a huge number of young women in the eligible age group coming though the door, we always have the vaccine in the fridge and we’re ready and waiting,” Paula says.
The clinic will not operate over the Christmas period from 17 December 2008 until 14 January 2009.