The Super Saturday Vaxathon brought the Whanganui District Health Board region its highest day of recorded vaccinations yet, with 1,562 people getting a jab.
The aim was to vaccinate more than the previous best, thought to be about 1400, executive vaccination lead Louise Allsopp said.
That big day was when the level 4 lockdown began, and there was high anxiety.
“What we really wanted was to surpass that day,” Allsopp said.
Of those in the region immunised, 643 were first doses, with 220 of those to Māori and 24 to Pasifika. Those with first doses will be followed up, to ensure they get a second, Allsopp said.
The Te Rito vaccination centre in Victoria Ave was especially busy in the morning. Photo / Lewis Gardner
Nearly 500 were vaccinated at the Te Rito centre in Victoria Ave, and 42 at the pop-up clinic outside Trafalgar Square.
Te Rito was busiest from opening until 2pm, its clinical nurse manager Kanta Sharma said.
Three staff, including Jacqui Pennefather, took on the specialised job of drawing up vaccines, in a spot where they wouldn’t be interrupted.
The atmosphere on the day was “beautiful”, Sharma said, with balloons, staff in fancy hats and free food and vouchers given away.
A Rotary team provided a sausage sizzle and there were Cookie Time biscuits and vouchers given away – some for a free car wash at Caltex Victoria Ave, some for Hell pizza and 500 for a free coffee and slice at Jolt.
Whanganui MP Steph Lewis hands out free sausages to the vaccinated. Photo / Lewis Gardner
Ken Chernoff’s trio played outside in the afternoon, which sent people into the building with a smile.
“It helps to be relaxed when you are vaccinated, because there’s less pain.”
Nurse Nicola Metcalfe was in charge at the Trafalgar Square vaccination site – the Waka Hauora health bus.
Half of those vaccinated there were getting their first dose, and one woman saw the Vaxathon on TV and came down, despite being very anxious.
It was good to have time to talk to them, Metcalfe said.
“I think we are at the crunch time, where we are now dealing with people who are very anxious and our vaccinators are having those conversations with people.”
There’s no judgment and no obligation that goes with those conversations, she said,
“If you are still sitting on the fence, approach your health professional.”
Dr Marion Taylor tells eight-year-old Declan Rapson about the virus. Photo / Lewis Gardner
Allsopp said there will be lots more opportunities to get vaccinated, with clinics continuing to open and Raetihi and Bulls GPs offering shots.
People who can’t get to a clinic can ring 0800 888 479 and vaccination will be brought to them.
“I’m so pleased with how hard all the teams have worked and with the community coming in to protect themselves and their whānau,” Allsopp said.
Dr Marion Taylor was at Te Rito for most of the day, to answer questions.
She talked to about 20 people, and some of them were very nervous. They wanted to know how the vaccination might affect them, especially if they were on other medications.
They asked what was in it, whether it would affect pregnancy, fertility and breastfeeding, and how it worked.
Taylor drew diagrams on a board and had information sheets and Ministry of Health website addresses to give out. A model of the coronavirus, made by Stanford House residents, was a useful educational tool.
She talked to some people who were under pressure from their employer to be vaccinated.
“They feel that it’s the right thing to do, but they find the pressure difficult,” she said.
Others were under pressure from family members, with some children saying their parents wouldn’t get to see grandchildren unless they were vaccinated.
Taylor came out of retirement to help with the vaccination, and said it has been a lovely thing to do, with a very inclusive team.
“It’s given me a new lease of life. I love going to work,” she said.
Te Rito will continue to be open for walk-ins, Sharma said.
“We want more people. We want them to keep themselves and the community safe.”