General practices central to Covid-19 vaccination campaign in Southern
General practices in Southern are playing an important role in the COVID-19 vaccine programme in the region, helping to make Covid-19 vaccinations more accessible across the district.
More than one quarter of all vaccines in the Southern region have been delivered by general practices since the vaccine roll out began in this region with Port Chalmers and Bluff port workers and their household contacts on 02 and 03 March. Over 18,000 vaccines have been delivered in Southern and around 5,000 of those are provided by general practices and WellSouth.
While clinics have been set up in Dunedin and Invercargill to serve urban residents, a model that uses general practice teams to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine in rural areas means more people in more places have access to the vaccine more quickly.
Starting 10 April, practices have stepped up to help deliver the first of two doses of the PfizerBioNTech vaccine to key groups, helping Southern to outpace many other health jurisdictions in the country to reach targeted populations.
- Wakatipu Medical and Queenstown Medical Centre held clinics in early April delivering vaccines in Queenstown. Targeted populations included border workers and their household contacts (group 1a&1b) which helped ensure the opening of the trans-Tasman travel bubble with Australia, and then frontline health care workers (group 2a&2b).
- The following weekend (17 and 18 April in Wanaka), Wanaka Medical Centre and Aspiring Medical Centre provided clinics for Groups 2a and 2b and local aged residential care facilities - Elmslie House and Aspiring Enliven Care Centre.
- A ‘flying squad’ from WellSouth primary health network’s Invercargill office, worked with West Otago Health in Tapanui, vaccinating frontline health care workers on Thursday 22 April, as well as Ribbonwood Rest Home.
- In Te Anau, one of the more remote parts of the district, Fiordland Medical Practice stepped up to deliver the vaccine to groups 2a&2b.
HealthCentral in Alexandra has led the delivery of the vaccine in Central Otago and surrounding area, including weekend and evening clinics starting Tuesday 20 April. The HealthCentral team, supported by other vaccinators from within the region have ensured rest home residents at Alexandra’s Ranui, Maniototo Hospital, Ranfurly, and Teviot Valley Rest Home in Roxburgh, and Cromwell’s aged care facility Rippenburn receive their vaccines as well. They have provided more than 850 vaccines so far.
“Booking patients and delivering vaccinations is what we do in general practice,” says Jenaya Smith, HealthCentral general manager. Acknowledging that the heightened cold chain requirements of the Pfizer vaccine makes the delivery of the Covid in primary care slightly more challenging than influenza or MMR, Jenaya added “We’ve proven that it is able to be managed in a primary care setting.
“Receiving a vaccine in your usual general practice is a more comfortable and trusting environment for most people. While I think it is a really good model we have here in Southern, I hope primary care is able to do more, including our own enrolled patients in the future,” she says.
WellSouth chief executive Andrew Swanson-Dobbs says Jenaya’s views are consistent with what other practices in the network have been saying.
“Southern general practices are keen to be involved, to support the implementation of the Covid-19 vaccine programme and, in particular, many want to deliver the vaccine to their own patients when the time comes – likely July and throughout the remainder of 2021,” Andrew says, adding that Southern DHB has been supportive and accommodating to having WellSouth and general practices involved in the programme.
For practices that don’t necessarily have the resources to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine, they are eager to have WellSouth support or have the vaccines delivered at another GP practice, he says.
“Having general practice be a part of the Covid-19 vaccination programme is efficient, it’s effective and it promotes equity of access to the vaccine in a region where 40% of the population reside rurally,” Andrew says.
The next step in the vaccine rollout will see the same groups receiving the second dose of the vaccine and then Groups 3a,b&c – mostly older persons, and those with underlying health conditions.
In addition to general practices helping to deliver the vaccine in rural areas of the region, Mornington Health Centre and Queens Park Medical Centre have been instrumental in vaccinating port workers in Dunedin and Bluff.
SDHB vaccine rollout incident controller Hamish Brown say it’s not yet clear what the final model nationally look like but in Southern is working on using existing networks such as general practice, community pharmacy, Māori health providers and rural hospitals to deliver to the general population:
“These are trusted providers, closer to home and in most cases have the existing cold chain infrastructure, processes and skills to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine. There is a question of scale and some complexity around the logistics that need to be overcome, however, I’m confident we can build on our success to date.”
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