Pockets of vaccine hesitancy make it harder for some DHBs to hit 90% target

Source: 1News

Pockets of very vaccine hesitant people in some towns mean district health boards have a big job on their hands to meet the new vaccination target.

The Government announced on Friday they wanted every DHB around the country to have 90 per cent of their population fully vaccinated.

But getting somewhere like Golden Bay vaccinated to that level will be easier said than done. While health officials are optimistic, local business owner Dave Hix says it’s very unlikely.

“To get this place to a level of vaccination that the Government would like, and most people would like, I'd say would be impossible because of some of the beliefs of some of the people here,” he said.

Overall, the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board has good vaccination rates with 72 per cent fully vaccinated and 84 per cent with at least one vaccination.

But there’s some areas of the region where rates are much lower which may slow efforts to reach the Government's target. Golden Bay initially had a strong uptake in vaccination but that has recently levelled off.

In Tākaka, 68 per cent of people have had one dose, and 57 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Dave Hix owns On The Spot in Pōhara which is usually bursting with holidaymakers over summer. He says staff are regularly having issues with people refusing to wear masks.

“People say, ‘Oh, you don't want my business then’, and we just say ‘we just want to keep everyone in our shop safe’.”

Another business 1News spoke to has had staff spat on and threatened when they’ve asked customers to wear masks.

Tākaka is thought to be the most vaccine hesitant place in the country, based on childhood immunisation data. One business in town will reportedly only employ non-vaccinated staff and won’t let vaccinated customers inside.

The race is now on to raise rates before summer, with the tourist region thought to usually double in population over the Christmas and New Year period.

Health officials are ramping up efforts with drive-through vaccination clinics this weekend. On Friday at the clinic in Tākaka, many were there getting their first vaccination.

One women told 1News she was initially unsure but decided to get vaccinated after speak to a nurse. “It was a hard one for me because I've got underlying issues and I've been hesitant but I knew I had to.”

Golden Bay GP Dr Rachael Cowie says everyone’s concerns are different and listening to them is key. “The most important thing is not to close things off. Just keep thinking and discussing and being open to people and not righting them off, just giving lots of opportunities.”

This week a vaccination campervan went around remote coastal communities like Tata Beach and there are plans for it to continue.

Golden Bay Ward councillor Celia Butler says going to people, especially farmers, is key. “We need to have an even coverage right into remote rural areas, not expect rural people to come to the services.”

Golden Bay Community Health’s Linzi Birmingham says they’re trying to make it as easy as possible for people to get vaccinated. “We're looking at where we can do pop up clinics. We're doing a lot of home visits to people who can't get out.”

While Birmingham acknowledges 90 per cent double vaccinated is a way off, she says it’s still achievable.