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ProCare General Practices Can Help Fast Track COVID Vaccine Roll Out

With less than 1% of New Zealanders having been vaccinated for COVID-19 so far, General Practices can play a key role in the roll out to help ensure a timely completion of the vaccination campaign for the Auckland and Northern region, says the country’s largest Primary Health Organisation (PHO), ProCare.

ProCare Group Chief Executive Officer Bindi Norwell says General Practices have decades of experience delivering vaccinations to the general public and are natural contenders to be a major part of the COVID vaccination roll out.

Ms Norwell says, “the public are used to visiting their local doctor for their vaccinations and so it makes sense to include general practice in the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination programme. General practices have a skilled nursing workforce already in place, and trusted relationships with their patients and so they need to be part of the solution to ensuring as many New Zealanders as possible receive the protection they need against COVID-19.”

“General Practices know their patients well and so can provide any additional support that might be needed for the elderly, disabled, people with an underlying health condition and extra advice for those that may be vaccine hesitant.

Like all General Practices across the country, ProCare General Practices are highly skilled at delivering vaccination programmes and they demonstrate this every year with their efficiency in ensuring children enrolled in their practices receive routine childhood immunisations, with our network of 170 practices consistently achieving 93% coverage at 8 months of age.

In 2020, these same practices managed to vaccinate over 75% of their patients over the age of 65 to protect them against flu, even when faced with the difficulties of Lockdown. We achieved 76% coverage for the Māori population aged over 65 years. Our practices have up to date data to identify priority population groups including Māori and Pacific whānau, and can engage with them in a culturally appropriate way. Vaccination programmes are the bread and butter of the General Practice, it’s what they do really well.

The current plan in development by the Northern Regional Health Coordination Centre (NRHCC) is to stand up ‘super site’ COVID vaccination centres across Auckland, with some general practices in each region granted approval to deliver COVID vaccines as ‘Local Vaccination Centres’. Practices who wish to be part of the programme are required to meet a number of strict criteria, such as the ability to deliver 75 vaccines every day and vaccinating people not registered with that practice.

Ms Norwell says that while a mixed model of delivery is a good idea, we could reach the needs of our population more quickly through leveraging both primary care and local vaccination centres.

“The appetite to be involved in the programme is strong amongst primary care, and greater inclusion of General Practice in the early stages, as opposed to the small number of practices invited to participate, will mean the vaccination target rate will be completed sooner. General Practice has both the competency and experience to be able to do this efficiently and PHOs can coordinate things to help ensure that there is no vaccine wastage.”

ProCare has been working with the Northern Regional Health Coordination Centre (NRHCC) to ensure that Auckland General Practices are part of the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination programme but is calling for a firm commitment and timeline so Practices can prepare and start to advise patients that they can receive their vaccination in their trusted local healthcare setting.

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