Kaumātua bikes 10km to get first Covid jab

By Herewini Waikato

Fifteen staff from Te Puna Ora o Mataatua travelled into Te Whakatōhea territory, to Te Rere Marae, Ōpōtiki, to ensure the health of its iwi.

Their goal was to vaccinate more than 100 people against Covid-19.

Whakatōhea kaumātua Dean Winiata biked 10 kilometres from town out to his grandfather's marae to get his first vaccination even though there was a clinic only 20 steps from his home.

“I'm sort of not for it but for me to get on with whānau at tangi I want to ensure my aunts, my nans, I can give them a cuddle and a hongi.”

Opotiki resident Carol Mitai came to the marae drive-through vaccination site for her first jab and had this to say while waiting in her car with a mask on: “I didn’t want to go to town, I don’t know why. So I was told about this - that was me, yeah. Hopefully, to stop the spread of the Covid.”

Marae plan

The team had set out a well-designed plan with three stations, one to take information, another to issue the vaccine and a third for recovery.

The layout of the marae had a 200m straight driveway for cars to wait safely before entering station one to obtain information, an enormous car park to assist station 2 with a pop-up tent where vaccinations were issued before moving on to the final station for recovery.

The recovery area had so much space even the cars did well to social distance.

Not only was the day a success because of the medical staff and the layout but also because of the hard-working volunteers from Te Rere Marae led by Thomas Mitai.

“The most important thing is family. It's family first. And beyond family, our community, hapū and iwi,” Mitai said as he worked station one all day to his 1980s music humming from a portable speaker in the background to settle any anxious arrivals.

Vaccine shortage

Te Puna Ora o Mataatua’s Samantha Scown was overwhelmed by how well the site was operating and was happy delivering the goal of 120 vaccinations today would be possible. She also knew there were many more people waiting to be vaccinated but the challenge and waiting for more vaccines was a dilemma within Te Puna Ora o Mataatua.

“I know for Te Puna Ora o Matātua that vaccine supply has been a huge issue for us and we are getting the demand for vaccines, whānau want their vaccines and we would give the vaccines but we don’t have the supply."

She said its medical teams were doing a big push “so we can get more vaccines to be able to help more whānau.”

It’s hoped a solution will be found through the local district health board and the Ministry of Health.