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Published Friday 9 Apr 2021

Not having anyone in Group 1, as we are not a border DHB and don't have an MIQ, the Covid-19 immunisation programme has only now officially started in Wairarapa. The first frontline healthcare workers have been vaccinated this week at Wairarapa Hospital. It is expected to take around eight weeks to vaccinate the 4,500 people in Group 2.

Matt Hitchiner, an Extended Care Paramedic with Wellington Free Ambulance, was one of the first to be vaccinated, rolling up his sleeves at 10am on day one. Matt has joined the vaccination team and expects to get involved in the rollout before long.

“Immunisation is important to me and I am pleased to be a small part of the protection programme,” Matt said.

“I am from the UK and I know only too well the harm caused by the virus. My partner and I know far too many friends and family that have been seriously affected back at home, and we have had family members die from Covid.”

“New Zealand is in a good place, and the magic ingredient to keep us there is this vaccine. It is great we have started vaccinating here in Wairarapa.”

For one of the country’s smallest DHBs, the immunisation programme is a big piece of work.

“In a ‘normal’ year we vaccinate about 9,000 for ‘flu in Wairarapa,” said Wairarapa DHB Communications Manager, Anna Cardno. “This year, we will be preparing to offer two doses of Covid-19 vaccinations to our entire population over 16 years of age – which is somewhere near ten times that.”

“The community appetite to support the Covid-19 vaccinations is really encouraging though and there is a sense of relief, I think, that we are now underway. Not having any Group 1 people in the region, because we don’t have any MIQs and are not a border DHB, it has probably seemed quite a wait to get started.”

Group 2 is expected to be completed by the end of May and, after that, Wairarapa DHB will open community based clinics and start offering vaccinations to Group 3, older persons and those with pre-existing medical conditions. Group 4, which is everyone else over the age of 16 years, will be invited to schedule their vaccination appointments from July.

“We know a lot of people are very keen to be immunised, and we are working as hard as we can to make that happen as quickly as possible,” Anna said.