The Key Role General Practice Has To Play In Vaccine Rollout
GENERAL PRACTICE CLINICS SHINE AS SAFE HAVENS IN THE LARGEST VACCINE ROLLOUT OF A GENERATION
With New Zealand’s vaccine rollout currently at over seven per cent ahead of the rollout plan, vaccinating general practice clinics should feel proud of their efforts to provide a comfortable, familiar option for patients eligible to receive their vaccinations.
ProCare, New Zealand’s largest primary health organisation (PHO), is responsible for the largest Pacific and South Asian populations enrolled in general practice in the country and the largest Māori population in Tāmaki Makaurau. CEO Bindi Norwell says that it’s hugely important for general practice clinics who are willing to get onboard with the rollout to receive the right support to be up and running and serving their communities effectively.
"Whilst general practices are experts at running vaccination programmes there are a few things unique to the rollout of the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine. There’s actually a fair bit of preparation that goes into onboarding a clinic to be ready to start providing the COVID-19 vaccine for their patients," explains Norwell. "Our teams are helping to onboard an average of two clinics every week. This is a process that involves dedicated staff from the practice, their DHB and ProCare all working collaboratively to help with logistical planning, ensuring the right safety measures and protocols are in place and that MoH guidelines are being met."
Bakerfield Medical & Urgent Care clinic in Manukau was the first ProCare-supported clinic to be signed off and able to offer vaccinations in May. Nurse Ally Voschezang says the feedback from patients has been overwhelmingly positive. "Many of our patients feel more comfortable visiting their GP and discussing or obtaining vaccinations from them. General practices also increase access to vaccinations as we are more accessible for elderly, vulnerable or hesitant patients. There is less queuing, walking and our clinics are made to cater for those with mobility issues" says Voschezang. "We are so pleased to be able to reach out to our direct communities and offer our services to other clinics, retirement villages and other elderly groups".
Bakerfield will continue vaccinating as the country moves through targeted groups into the general population from July. "We have a dozen more clinics in our pipeline, readying for their onboarding process" says Norwell. "And these numbers will only increase as time goes on. It’s imperative that general practices are supported to get onboard with the vaccine rollout so the country’s targets are met sooner rather than later. It’s a privilege to be part of such important work and to know that we are enabling some of our most vulnerable community members to get their COVID-19 vaccine from their local general practice; somewhere they know well and trust."
It is important to note that general practices will let their patients know when they are eligible to be vaccinated for COVID-19 so there is no need for people to call their practice. However, it is a good time for people to ensure that their contact details, such as phone number and email address, are up-to-date with enrolled general practice so that they can be easily contacted when it is their turn to be vaccinated.
COVID-19 vaccinations are currently being prioritised for people over the age of 65 years and those with underlying health conditions. As additional supplies of the Pfizer vaccine arrive in New Zealand towards the end of July the programme to reach the general population.