Vaccine team . . . The Roberts Pharmacy Covid-19 vaccination team, from left, Victoria Holden, Laura Holland, Pam Mains and Peter Burton, have been contributing to good vaccination rates in east Timaru. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

by Helen Holt

Mobile vaccination clinics will be used to target South Canterbury’s hard-to-reach communities.

The Government’s Super Saturday campaign held this Saturday bring attention to the 20% of people remaining unvaccinated in New Zealand, and get as many as possible vaccinated before Christmas.

South Canterbury District Health Board is prioritising the communities with the lowest vaccination rates in effort to get to 90% vaccinated against Covid-19.

Patient, nursing and midwifery director Lisa Blackler said the health board planned to use the mobile vaccination clinic to target both Peel Forest and Geraldine.

Peel Forest has the lowest vaccination rate in South Canterbury.

East Timaru had the highest vaccine rate, which Ms Blackler said was probably due to the walk-in clinics at Woollcombe St and Roberts Pharmacy.

The health board was also taking vaccination clinics into workplaces, Ara, community events and social services.

To target the Mackenzie region, a vaccination team would be sent to Aoraki-Mt Cook Village and Tekapo, in addition to the vaccination services already provided in Twizel and Fairlie.

Community leaders are urging people to get vaccinated to help the local economy.

Timaru Mayor Nigel Bowen said he was really pleased with the local numbers, but would like to see more.

“The next two weeks will be really telling. We’re very supportive of the initiatives from the DHB.

“It’d be great to be the first town to get to 90%, to get that gold medal.

“There’s a competition in New Zealand at the moment to be the first. That competitive element has made things more interesting, and given people a bit more motivation to go out and get jabbed.”

He said the consequence of potential outbreaks was an incentive for locals to get vaccinated.

“For me it goes back to the wellbeing of our community,” Mr Bowen said.

“If we don’t have 90% vaccinated, then if there’s an outbreak we’ll be back in lockdown, the hospitals will be full.

“What we want is an open economy, people working, people out and about.”

He encouraged people to see their GP or a medical professional if they were hesitant, so they could seek the right advice.

Venture Timaru chief executive Nigel Davenport said a high vaccination rate was needed for the new normal.

“Our local businesses need us more than ever and we need them.

“Events, functions and gatherings need to take place, as they are such an important piece of our community fabric and wellbeing.

“We need to be able to successfully attract visitors, new residents and businesses to our great part of New Zealand . . .  ongoing Covid-19 restrictions will continue to impact our ability to do all of these.”

The Delta outbreak restrictions were hurting many more areas of the community than were affected by last year’s lockdown.

“While locally our vaccination rates compare favourably to many other areas, we collectively need to accelerate our vaccination rates even more for the benefit not only of our personal lives but also our communities and economy,” Mr Davenport said.

More than half of South Canterbury was now fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

The vaccine rollout reached 55.8% of the eligible population last week.

There are now 29,301 fully vaccinated people in South Canterbury, and 3779 second doses were administered in the region last week.

The SCDHB administered 4743 doses last week, 964 of which were first doses.

Eighty percent of the eligible population have had at least one dose of the vaccine.

The district health board has administered 71,558 total doses.

As of Monday, Timaru was ranked 11th among territorial local authorities for full vaccination at 59.6%, Waimate was 47th at 50.2%. Mackenzie was trailing at 63rd, with only 43.2% fully vaccinated.