The Southern District Health Board (SDHB) has begun vaccinating its frontline health workers against Covid-19.
A vaccination facility opened in central Dunedin’s Meridian Mall this morning and clinics are also getting under way in Invercargill.
The DHB said about 20,000 frontline workers would eventually be inoculated in Otago and Southland. They are being encouraged to book in their vaccination by filling out a webform ahead of time.
SDHB chief executive Chris Fleming said it was a relief to have the chance to roll out the vaccine, given the challenges and disruptions caused by Covid-19 over the past year.
Based on guidance from the Ministry of Health, vaccination of the general population will take place in the second half of the year.
SDHB vaccine rollout incident controller Hamish Brown said the district’s sprawling population made it a complicated task.
“We need to tailor our delivery so we not only meet the needs of our front-line workers throughout the district but also we meet the needs of Southern residents, whether they live in a large city or small rural community. There are different logistical challenges in different locations.”
Brown said they were aiming to do 3500 vaccinations a day, with about 575,000 vaccines required in total to cover two doses for everyone in the region aged over 16.
“In Southern, our plans are consistent with the Ministry of Health’s approach of starting with few sites for targeted groups, and then ramping up to a more distributed model involving primary care and other providers.”
It will include support from WellSouth PHO, primary care, rural hospitals, and pharmacies.
The DHB is also still working with an interim booking system until a dedicated electronic booking system is put in place. It said it was continuing to recruit and train more people required for the rollout.
More than 420 people have already received their first dose of the vaccine in the region, including health staff involved with vaccinations and swabbing, workers at Port Otago, South Port and NZAS Tiwai Point Aluminium Smelter, which has an international berth.
Last week, the second dose began to be administered.
About 500 household contacts of Southern port workers began receiving the vaccine about a week ago at Wakari Hospital Dunedin and Murihiku Marae in Invercargill.
In Invercargill, clinics will run at the WellSouth Offices and Murihiku Marae in the short term, but a longer-term permanent location is being finalised.
Clinics for Queenstown and Central Otago are planned for mid-April.
SDHB said the expected trans-Tasman travel bubble would also have implications for border and health workers in Queenstown, meaning they would be one of the next priority groups.