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Gisborne iwi health provider's community-led approach to Covid-19 vaccination

A Gisborne iwi health provider is determined to get as much of their community vaccinated against Covid-19 as possible by training people that locals know and trust to give the jabs. 

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Tūranga Health CEO Reweti Ropiha says it’s powerful when locals step up to help their community. Source: Breakfast

Tūranga Health kaiāwhina, respected community figures that fulfill a wide range of roles within the health sector, are among the first trained to give the Covid-19 vaccine under new rules introduced by the Government.

Kaiāwhina Dallas Poi, of Rongowhakaata and Ngāti Porou, is a familiar face for many in Gisborne. 

Poi and her colleagues are currently completing online training to be able to administer the vaccine. They’re now meeting in person to reinforce what they had learnt online.

“We are putting ourselves through the paces in the moderation space,” she said, with four of her colleagues currently being moderated by supervising registered nurses.

She said the online training had given her a “good foundation”. 

In May, the Government proposed a change in legislation to bolster the number of people who can administer Covid-19 vaccinations. At the time, the Ministry of Health estimated it was short about 4500 vaccinators. 

The proposal was met with some apprehension from medical professionals, who were concerned the training was being rushed amid the workforce shortage

A Ministry of Health spokesperson said at the time the new workforce will receive specialist training required to "meet the same high standards for the tasks they will perform as is expected of all vaccinators in New Zealand".

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New rules under the Medicines Regulations Act are now in place. It allows more health workers to be trained to give vaccinations. These include retired nurses, people who have trained overseas but aren’t locally registered, and those in the non-regulated kaiāwhina workforce. 

All new vaccinators receive training and work under the supervision of registered health professionals. The new vaccinators are also trained in basic emergency techniques. 

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New modelling shows 97 per cent of the population needs to be vaccinated for herd immunity against the more infectious variants of Covid-19. Source: Breakfast

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said more than 12,500 people "from a wide range of backgrounds" had already indicated they were interested in getting trained to give the vaccine. 

“The change will also allow us to boost the numbers of Māori and Pacific vaccinators. It also provides these new vaccinators with enhanced career opportunities in the health sector," he said.

“I’d like to congratulate 12 kaiāwhina from Tūranga Health ... who have become the first to complete the face-to-face training to become Covid-19 vaccinators from this new workforce.

“This group of vaccinators are from a broad range of roles and backgrounds and are excited to learn new skills to support the Covid-19 vaccination rollout in protecting whānau in Tūranga-nui-a-Kiwa and surrounding areas. They are a welcome addition to Tūranga Health’s 14 vaccinators.”

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Tūranga Health CEO Reweti Ropiha, of Rongowhakaata and Ngai Tāmanuhiri, said it was a powerful thing for the community to be able to give their own vaccines. 

“We’ve got learnings from yesteryear with the Spanish influenza and the travesty that left. Today, it’s about us stepping up in our own backyard,” he said. 

Ropiha said training up vaccinators was also about future-proofing for the next generation. 

Tūranga Health CEO Reweti Ropiha and his team. Source: Breakfast

The Immunisation Advisory Centre has trained more than 8000 Covid-19 vaccinators from across the health sector since the beginning of the year.