'To protect myself, to protect my family'

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

Hauora Tairāwhiti has started the second phase of vaccinations for Covid-19, with frontline health workers now being immunised.

Seventeen-year-old Paora Whaanga-Gilbert (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Rākaipaaka, Ngāti Raukawa, Te Atiawa), who just yesterday took out the Te Tairāwhiti Manu Kōrero competition with a speech on what New Zealand has learned from Covid-19, has today received his Covid-19 vaccination.

“It was good. From the moment I walked in the staff were nice and friendly. It's not as if it's a scary place and, when you receive the vaccine, it's not a daunting thing. It's like when you're running on the grass and stand on a prickle, it's the same.”

Working as an orderly at the local hospital, Whaanga-Gilbert says he is not only protecting patients but also his own whānau.

 “The reason I've received the vaccine is to protect myself, to protect my family and to inform those who are coming into the hospital that this is a safe place.”

Second phase

This is the third day of the second phase of vaccinations at Hauora Tairāwhiti, where between 140-150 vaccinations are being delivered daily for frontline health workers including local GPs, St. Johns ambulance staff and helicopter search and rescue members.  

“If it's going to help us get to a pre-covid lifestyle, it's the best thing to do”, says Roimata Brown (Ngāti Porou, Te Aitanga a Hauiti), who is one of the staff administering the vaccinations.

“The reason I had the vaccine is because I had whānau with respiratory problems and I want to protect them and, because I'm a frontline worker, it's up to me to keep my whānau safe and my friends as well. When they see I've done it, and I've had no complications and I'm still the same person I was prior to having it, hopefully they'll jump on board and have it as well.

“We haven't had any people that have had bad complications from it. The most common side effects have been tiredness and pain at the injection site and those only last for a couple of days at the most.”

Helping out with the vaccinations are staff from Tūranga Health and Ngāti Porou Hauora, in a combined team effort to better protect the community.

More protected

“It's going to be protective of the community,” says Kimiora Biddle (Ngāti Porou) from Tūranga Health.

“We have a high Māori and Pacific Island population and they are the target at-risk groups, and we have a high population of people with morbid conditions, diabetes, heart, respiratory, and those are the ones at highest risk.”

“So we do need to make sure that we are getting our injections so that we can protect those that can't be immunised, but also if we want to travel and do other stuff we want to do we're going to need to be immunised with the Covid-19 vaccination.

“I'm thinking of my grandmother,” Whaanga-Gilbert says. “My grandmother is elderly, and I go to visit to her so what I'm doing is making her position safer, so that I don't take any illness to her house.”

Whaanga-Gilbert has a message for those in the community who are concerned about the vaccine.

“This vaccine is something that protects us, you're 90% more protected if you receive the vaccine, and the staff here, my co-workers, they're older than me but they're still pumping in their work.”

On Monday, a health team will travel to vaccinate staff at Ngāti Porou Hauora in Te Puia.