Colorado doctor urges small town NZ to get vaccinated for Covid

Source: 1News

An American doctor who battled the pandemic in Colorado before moving to New Zealand's least vaccinated region has a stark warning for small towns.

Dr Jeff Rickard arrived in the country five weeks ago from Denver, taking a job as an emergency department doctor at Taranaki Base Hospital.

Taranaki's vaccination rates are among the lowest in the country, as of Friday just 76.3 per cent of its eligible population have had their first jab.

Having witnessed the brutal blow to small communities hit during the pandemic in the United States, Rickards urged Kiwis not to get complacent.

He told Q+A that many within small and isolated areas of the US hadn't had the jab, believing it was unlikely the virus would reach them.

"We saw small towns in America just devastated. Whether it was a lack of access or unwillingness.

While the outbreaks through Colorado began to decrease after vaccines were introduced, he said many people became complacent and chose not to get vaccinated.

The state's vaccination rates sit at 60 per cent fully vaccinated, slightly below the national average of 65 per cent, according to the Mayo Clinic.

"It was 'oh it's not going to reach our small town' and then it does and a lot of people get sick and a lot of people die."

Whether it was a lack of access or unwillingness, Rickard added that inaccessibility in the United States' vaccine roll out was a significant downfall for small towns.

"I can see the same thing happening here if they don't have the access, then they're not really resourced properly."

He says New Zealand has an advantage with its current situation, having been able to largely trace Covid-19 outbreaks in the past.

By getting ahead of the vaccination rollout in hard to reach communities, Kiwis may be able to better control living with the virus.

"New Zealand is really perfectly timed to cut it off before it gets legs and takes off like it did in America and the rest of the world.

"If we maintain the levels where we are now, with the understanding that you can fix it by going ahead and getting the vaccine, then you win the battle."

Rickard stressed that focussing on communities that are hard to reach and encouraging them not to become complacent is the best protection New Zealanders can have.

Grassroots approaches are already underfoot in Taranaki, with local Māori health providers close to securing funding for a separate initiative from the district health board.

It follows a visit to the region by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Friday, in her effort to encourage all of New Zealand to get vaccinated.

A further 2876 people in Taranaki got jabbed on Super Saturday, part of the record-breaking group of almost 130000 kiwis who joined in.

Dr Jeff Rickard, an emergency medical doctor at Taranaki Base Hospital.