A drive to save lives

By Rukuwai Tipene-Allen

Off-road treks and hikes were not a barrier to getting the vaccine to 30 Māori and Pacific Island whānau in remote Tai Tokerau kāinga. A collaborative effort between Te Hau Ora o Ngāpuhi and Hato Hone St John will see the rollout of a new weekly mobile outreach clinic in Kaikohe. The work started on Friday and the team who visited whānau in the outlying kāinga told Te Ao Mārama the drive to save lives was a success. 

The Kaikohe Waka Ora o Werohanga will travel weekly around the region to isolated communities to provide the vaccination service to whānau who cannot get into the vaccination clinic based in Kaikohe. The service will also provide information to whānau who are unsure about the vaccination process and would like to be better informed.

Tia Ashby, a daughter of the north and the chief operating officer at Te Hau Ora o Ngāpuhi, says serving whānau is at the core of what they do at the hauora clinic. 

“The demand is strong in our community for the vaccination but some of our kaumātua and kuia do not feel safe leaving their whare during a lockdown, and for other whānau there are reported challenges associated with their disabilities and transport to get to their vaccination appointment. Waka Ora o Werohanga will address these barriers and bring the service to them.”

Ashby says vaccinations will be available for all members of a whānau or bubble over the age of 12.

112,719 Māori have so far received their second vaccination. Te Hau Ora o Ngāpuhi has been at the forefront of Māori vaccinations, offering swabs and vaccinations to whānau in Te Tai Tokerau and committing time and energy to help bridge the gap of vaccine and health literacy. 

Ashby told Te Ao Mārama that health professionals sat with some whānau for up to an hour to talk them through the process and to offer information and reassurance around the vaccination. She commended her colleagues who were able to not only bridge the gap in health literacy but also in te reo Māori. 

One kuia they visited required reo speaking health advice, a service that the team was able to offer her. 

But the work could not be done alone, the Hato Hone team and their resources were integral to put the pedal to the metal. 

“Each week our Waka Ora Health Shuttles with local volunteer drivers enable whānau with transport barriers to take care of their hauora by taking them to their health appointments," Hato Hone St John northern regional community engagement manager Jane Stearns said.

"We are pleased to support this innovative kaupapa and provide one of our waka in Te Tai Tokerau for Kaikohe Waka Ora o Werohanga so more whānau can get their vaccination without having to leave their whare.”

The team includes the Hato Hone St John  Waka Ora Health Shuttle and a St John trained volunteer driver.  Te Hau Ora o Ngāpuhi will jump on the waka with a registered nurse to administer the vaccinations and a kaimanaaki to help with whānau ora duties.