Net needed to be 'cast wider' for Auckland mass vaccination event

A Pasifika health expert says health officials should have cast the net wider to get more people to attend this weekend's first mass Covid-19 vaccination event in Auckland.

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The Fono chief executive Sally Dalhousie says health officials underestimated how many people to invite to this weekend's Manukau event. Source: Breakfast

It comes after RNZ yesterday reported less than a quarter of those sent initial invitations to the event had booked a slot, with health officials scrambling to find 12,000 more people so it can go ahead on Friday.

The event, which would run to August 1 at the Vodafone Event Centre in Manukau, was set up for MIT students, staff and their families to get the jab.

Invites have since been extended to another 140,000 people in the South Auckland community.

Sally Dalhousie, chief executive at The Fono, which is the largest Pacific health provider in Auckland, this morning told Breakfast she believes health officials underestimated how many people to invite to the event.

"I wasn't sure just how far the net had been cast, it clearly needed to be cast very wide if we were going to have some uptake, or the amount of uptake that we needed for this," she said.

"There hadn't been a long lead in time to this so we needed to invite as many people as we possibly could and I think they had just underestimated that at the beginning."

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As a leader in the Pacific community, Dalhousie said she only heard about the mass vaccination event through the media, and that she wasn't invited to help or attend.

She said the event would have worked better if with different community engagement.

"I think as long as we involve the community in the solution then we're going to have a successful rollout and we're going to meet the target that we need to by the required date.

"The communities have the answers, they know what the solutions are, they know how to get people to places on mass so if we ask the people they'll tell us and we just need to respond accordingly."

But she said texts and emails were "not a good way to engage people" and that people needed to be on the ground talking to those involved face-to-face in their language and in their spaces.

When asked if a mass vaccination event was a good idea, Dalhousie said it was good to try a lot of different approaches and that the rollout would evolve over time.

But she added that there was "anxiety fatigue" around Covid-19 after being "bombarded" with negative stories both in New Zealand and overseas throughout the pandemic.

"Going into a space that you're already unfamiliar with creates added anxiety."

Vodafone Events Centre Source: 1 NEWS

Dalhousie said it was important to make sure vaccinating populations was "a positive experience", adding that she was involved in setting up a vaccination centre in West Auckland which was designed like a Pacific art gallery and intended to make people feel relaxed and go away talking about the positive experience.

"People are really positive, they're happy to come in, they're relieved once people come in," she said.

"It's not just getting them in there, but when they're in there making sure that it's actually a positive experience as well because people talk afterwards."

The Government will begin rolling out the Pfizer vaccine to the general population today, with anyone aged 60 or over first to be invited to book their jab. In two weeks time, that will extend to those over 55.

Sally Dalhousie. Source: 1 NEWS