A NEW vaccination clinic opened in Invercargill this week will be where many Southland residents will go to get their Covid-19 vaccine.
The opening of the clinic on Monday was an emotional time for Invercargill resident and healthworker Evelyn Calaunan.
She was the first person to be vaccinated at Invercargill’s Covid-19 vaccination clinic at the Civic Theatre.
Mrs Calaunan is a Philippine national and has been living in New Zealand for the past 14 years.
The vaccination “was not painful at all. I’m very happy now because [I feel] safe”, she said.
The caregiver was one of about 360 health workers vaccinated at the new facility after it was officially opened with a mihi whakatau (welcome).
Vaccine programme leader Karl Metzler said the opening was a milestone for the region and the clinic was expected to be operating for the next 12 months.
“Both SDHB and WellSouth primary care network should be very proud with what we achieved today. We had to move pretty quickly and get across some major logistics.
“I think New Zealand is in a really good position – it just needs to really strengthen that position that we have been in by getting as much of our general population immunised and have this herd immunity target, really.”
The focus was on vaccinating front-line health workers.
It was expected the higher-risk members of the population (group 3) would have their vaccinations next month, while the rollout for others would start in July, Mr Metzler said.
He estimated about 575,000 Pfizer vaccinations would be administered in the region and he hoped to have the whole southern population vaccinated by the end of the year.
“The plan is that the vaccination centre here will focus on the urban population and then we fully intend to roll out to our more remote rural populations and provide vaccinations on site.”
Vaccination hubs would open in Te Anau this weekend followed by Winton and Balclutha hubs in the next few weeks.
The booking system was one of the main challenges, he said.
“We are working on alternative solutions, really, to make the system more efficient and user-friendly.”
A national campaign to encourage people to be vaccinated would start on April 21.
“I think [there is] a vaccine hesitancy across the country, so we really need a national target focus.
“We are part of the biggest vaccine campaign in our country’s history, really – and it is about the greater good.”