Vaccination our best defence against COVID

Published on 14 October 2021

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Our district faces a challenge that will have very real consequences over coming weeks and months. Last Friday, we learned that someone who later tested positive for the extremely infectious Delta variant of COVID-19 had visited Whangārei, Paihia and Kawakawa. At the time of writing this column, it was unclear whether this person and her travelling companion had infected others. However, given their refusal to provide details of their contacts, the Government was right to act quickly and impose a snap Alert Level 3 lockdown.

Like Whangārei Mayor Sheryl Mai, I was frustrated and angry that the months of sacrifice Northlanders have gone through to keep our region COVID free had been squandered by the selfish acts of a few. This will affect us all, but particularly the many businesses that are struggling in our hospitality and tourism sectors. This latest lockdown has again put their plans to reopen on hold and I know some will be considering whether they can remain in business.

This will have implications right across the local economy. For example, many primary producers rely on sales to local hospitality and tourism businesses and they will also be out of pocket. That uncertainty will have flow-on effects, such as to our rangatahi who rely on summer jobs that these businesses provide. These economic ripples will impact us all in some way. As we all know, we cannot continue to use lockdowns as our only defence against COVID. Getting our population vaccinated is the one way we can do get back to normal without seeing hospitals swamped by COVID patients. How do we know? You only have to look overseas to see how easily the Delta variant spreads among the unvaccinated and how many of those patients end up needing hospital care.

Medical experts agree that we need to get at least 90 per cent of our population immunised to ensure that the virus is under control and that our lives can return to as close to normal as possible. Our vaccination rates in the Far North need to increase significantly to achieve that goal, but I’m confident we can do it. Community vaccination centres are now operating in Kaitāia, Kaikohe, Moerewa and Kerikeri. No booking is required. Just turn up and get your jab. It’s free. It’s quick and it’s safe. Further clinics are being opened and hours extended, so check the Northland DHB website to find the one closest to you.

On Saturday, there will be a concerted push to get all New Zealanders vaccinated. Super Saturday will see more vaccination centres opened and for longer. If you’ve put off getting your first jab, do it on Super Saturday and get your second jab booked. Time is running out. We need all those eligible for vaccinations to do so now, so we can stop the spread of Delta. By achieving the 90 per cent vaccination goal, we can all enjoy a summer free from restrictions. Please, get vaccinated for the safety of your whanau, your community and yourself.