Welcoming smiles . . .Ray Bowman, his wife Donna, and their 2-year-old son Hunter like to ‘‘duck in’’ to the Pleasant Point Playcentre. PHOTO: SHELLEY INON

by Shelley Inon

Pregnant mother Donna Bowman is happy to be taking her young son Hunter back to the Pleasant Point Playcentre, after staying away for the past few months.

Mrs Bowman said she was suffering from bad morning sickness and “really didn’t want to catch anything”.

However, now the Government had introduced the vaccine mandate at all early learning establishments, she felt safe returning, she said.

She could see the damage Covid-19 had wreaked on her place of birth – The Philippines – where only 40% of the population had been vaccinated, Mrs Bowman said.

She had been upset to hear her mother had been a target of disinformation, the anxiety causing her to delay getting vaccinated. Her mother had told her she would get her shots when the virus got closer, Mrs Bowman said.

She had had to explain to her mother both vaccinations were needed to build sufficient immunity.

After the conversation, her family in the Philippines got vaccinated.

Her husband, Ray Bowman, said he had visited 37 countries over the years, but was grateful to be here when Covid-19 hit. It was not a matter of if Covid-19 would get here but “a matter of when”, he said.

“We are living through a pandemic – it’s a big word. Our kids will be studying about this in their history books.”

He was thankful the introduction of vaccine passports, and the country’s high vaccination rate, would make his wife – and his mother – feel safe this summer, and they would not be held hostage by the virus, Mr Bowman said.

Not everyone at the playcentre was as thankful as he was, as the mandates meant some volunteers were not able to visit the playcentre, Mr Bowman said.

Also, he was disappointed by whoever it was who had been putting stickers with anti-vaccine disinformation on the outside of the playcentre.

He felt disbelief when he saw them as he could never have imagined anyone in the community doing something like that, Mr Bowman said.

“They should keep that in the streets, not in the playcentre.”

The playcentre was well loved, some people travelling from Timaru to take their children there, Mr Bowman said.

More families had been accepted for the new year and everyone was welcome “so long as they follow the Government mandates”, Mr Bowman said.

Playcentre Aotearoa communications manager Claire Gullidge said the organisation had some indication of staff and voluntary members who would not attend playcentres with the mandate in place.

“But there are also staff and voluntary members who do not feel comfortable attending if there are unvaccinated people on site.

“Our focus is on keeping vulnerable people in society protected. For Playcentre, this is our tamariki and our broader community