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New Zealand’s Southernmost COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic Opens

Residents on Rakiura Stewart Island have turned out in force today (28 July) for their COVID-19 vaccinations at the first of a two-day COVID-19 clinic offering vaccinations to the 385 eligible people on the island.

Within the first two and a half hours, more than 100 people had been vaccinated, with no sign of demand slowing.

The clinic, set up at the Stewart Island Community Centre, has 4 vaccinating booths and is run by 12 staff, led by nurse practitioner Nadine Goldsmith, of Awarua Whānau Services.

“We’re so pleased that many residents are coming down here to take up this opportunity of getting vaccinated here where they live,” she said.

Two Invercargill-based Māori health providers, Awarua Whānau Services and Ngā Kete Mātauranga Pounamu Charitable Trust, have partnered with Wellsouth Primary Heath Network to deliver the vaccine to those aged 16 years or over on the island, which is 30km south of South Island and home to many more kiwi of the feathered variety than human. The drop-in clinics are running from midday to 7pm today and tomorrow.

“It’s important that every single corner of Aotearoa New Zealand gets the same access to vaccine and so our team was delighted to be able to come down here, bring the vaccine, bring all the resources we need and come down here to offer it to the community,” Goldsmith said.

“The hope is that as many people as possible from Rakiura will come in and receive dose one of their vaccination.”

Yesterday afternoon (27 July), 20 locals were vaccinated as part of the ‘wet run’ to ensure the clinic was ready to open its doors to the general public today. Also, a public information session about the Pfizer vaccination was held last night by Southern District Health Board medical officer of health Dr Susan Jack to answer residents’ questions.

Johnny Miller, who has lived on Rakiura for the past two years, was pleased to get vaccinated on the island rather than needing to head to the mainland and said it was a painless experience.

“It was real quick, the ladies were nice – just come and get it done. It’s pretty easy,” the 45-year-old said.

“I was always going to get vaxxed. My next-door neighbour is the local nurse and he’s a fantastic guy and he was just saying ‘Just do it – if you want to go somewhere, just do it’.”

He believed a recent false positive case of COVID-19 on the island made residents more eager to get vaccinated.

“I definitely think it’s good to be protected. If we got an outbreak here, it’d be terrible.”

Stewart Island Health Committee chair Mary Chittenden said she chose to get vaccinated to protect her family and her community.

Tourism boomed on the island last summer, which was positive for its economy but also increased the risk of COVID-19 reaching its shores, she said.

“I think there’s an element of relief probably within the community to know that we haven’t been forgotten being an isolated rural community, but also to know that in the absence of that more advanced medical care, that we do have something that’s going to protect us.

“The more people that are vaccinated on this island, the safer our community is – more people in all the communities of New Zealand, the safer the country is.”

Southern District Health Board COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout Incident Controller Hamish Brown said it was wonderful to see such a great turnout to the clinic’s first day.

“It’s great to be able to provide the community on Stewart Island with access to the COVID-19 vaccine right here where they live,” he said.

“This is a whole community approach and the fantastic effort from the team on the ground has led to a very smooth operation.”

A second dose clinic will run on the island in mid-August to ensure residents are fully vaccinated.

Footage: https://www.dropbox.com/s/2xrtxon91qfzzgc/Stewart_Island_Ready_to_use.mov?dl=0

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