Wellington Scoop

Covid vaccinations for everyone 16 and over in rural Whanganui communities

Report from LDR
Covid-19 vaccinations for entire communities in rural Whanganui have begun. Anyone aged 16 or over is being offered Covid-19 vaccinations in some remote rural areas where it is more efficient and cost-effective to vaccinate the entire population at once rather than according to the Government’s tiered national guidelines.

The national vaccination rollout is in its third stage, targeting those aged 65 and over, pregnant women and anyone with a disability or underlying health condition.

In the Whanganui District Health Board area, which includes Whanganui, Rangitīkei and parts of Ruapehu, Māori and Pasifika aged 50 and over and whānau living with them have been included in the local vaccination rollout since May.

Whanganui health provider Te Oranganui, which has been running vaccination clinics in Whanganui city since May, has begun its rural rollout to smaller centres like Waverley, Marton and Rātana, starting with information sessions.

In the Whanganui river communities, information sessions have been held at Rānana, Parikino and Kaiwhaiki.

On Wednesday Te Oranganui kicked off a series of clinics for the river communities at the marae settlement of Kaiwhaiki, and a clinic will be held at Matahiwi for all of the River Road on Monday, 9 August. A clinic in Pipiriki is also likely.

At Rātana vaccinations will begin on Friday, 6 August.

The Mātaiwhetū (chief executive) of Te Oranganui, Wheturangi Walsh-Tapiata, says it makes logistical sense in smaller communities to vaccinate the entire population. “In some of our rural, remote areas it’s a bit difficult to always follow the national guidelines. What we have said is that we’re really committed to vaccinating whānau. If you have a pāhake [older person], or if you have someone who fits the other criteria, we’re committed to vaccinating everybody in that household. It’s a bit ridiculous to have to keep going back into those rural communities, and we want to be able to capture them when we are there.”

covid nurses

Meanwhile, the Whanganui District Health Board is visiting homes to get the Covid-19 vaccine to the vulnerable – and everyone living in the household. Photo above shows registered nurse Brian Elliott who has retired three times, and Julie Blair, who has an extensive district nursing background, and who was planning to retire last March. Now they are working as a crucial component in the biggest vaccination programme in Whanganui’s history. The pair have teamed up to deliver vaccinations to those in the community who are housebound.

“We are looking after those who cannot get to a vaccination clinic,” Blair says. “They may be disabled, or very frail and elderly – vulnerable people who might otherwise miss out on the vaccination programme.”

Each day the pair plan their route, and their travels around the region have seen them vaccinate well over 100 people, with plenty more to come.

“We average 11 houses each day and we vaccinate everyone living there,” Blair says. “It’s a long, slow process, but we are loving the work. The people appreciate it so much – everyone wants us to stop for a cup of coffee.”

They get their list of referrals from the district nursing database, from GPs and by word of mouth.

In August the team will expand to four.

So far more than 20,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been delivered in the Whanganui rohe.

Local Democracy Reporting (LDR) is a public interest news service supported by RNZ, the News Publishers’ Association and NZ On Air.


  1. Traveller, 16. July 2021, 18:53

    If only the Capital and Coast District Health Board was showing similar signs of activity in central Wellington.

  2. Wendy, 17. July 2021, 11:32

    I wouldn’t hold your breath Traveller, as it sounds as though they are only now trying to get vaccinations for the Central City organised. Just hope there is not another central city scare because it wouldn’t take much for covid to go through a high-rise apartment, as has happened in many places overseas. CCDHB should have to explain why the most populated Wellington suburb in a high-risk physical environment has been overlooked.
    Hutt Valley DHB seems to have got it right with their large vaccination booking centre processing sizeable numbers of people daily which has been open for a while now.

  3. Bill Manhire, 18. July 2021, 22:29

    Apparently lots of Group 3 people in Karori were vaccinated weeks and weeks ago. Different strokes for different folks.

  4. GrahamCA, 19. July 2021, 10:36

    Appears that CCDHB are leaving the task to practices that have the resources (including space) to vaccinate their patients, while patients registered with practices without space or staff are left in limbo. I heard from my GPs (Port Nicholson) several weeks ago that I would be contacted by CCDHB by mid July, but silence has reigned since then.

  5. Traveller, 19. July 2021, 10:50

    CCDHB said on July 8: We will contact you (Group 3 people) when it is your turn to book, and this will happen by the end of July. We are … reserving appointments for Group 3 so that everybody in that group will have the opportunity to be vaccinated before we start vaccinating people in Group 4 (the rest of the general population).
    So they’ve got two more weeks to do what they are promising … In the meantime, there are many reports of small numbers of Group 3 people being vaccinated (in Karori … in Wainui…) while the rest of us wait to be contacted and don’t understand why we have been left out.

  6. Toni, 19. July 2021, 11:07

    CCDHB should have done far more for the huge number of inner-city residents. Seems like all those living in high-rise apartments have been forgotten. Let’s hope there is not another Wellington Central scare, as covid can spread rapidly in a high-rise building.
    Many over 65s have been told they won’t get vaccinated until mid – late August, while areas around the country are now vaccinating those under 65. Meanwhile we all have to listen to CCDHB and the government telling us how well they are doing.

  7. Myrtle, 19. July 2021, 12:26

    The GPs’ practices don’t seem to know anything. Meantime the Govt message is that by the end of July group 3 and group 4 will all start to be vaccinated … and all will be invited to make a booking.

  8. Meredith, 19. July 2021, 12:38

    Group 3 is still defined as everyone over 65. Group 4 is everyone aged 16 or over.

  9. Lindsay, 19. July 2021, 17:15

    370,000 doses arrived in the country today – but as they are being distributed to 119 vaccination centres, it’s hard to tell whether this will do anything to reduce the evident shortage of vaccines in Wellington, where our two health boards say they are preparing to vaccinate 200,000 people in Group 3.


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