Vaccinations for homeless at river site


6 September 2021


One of the more challenging aspects of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been reaching out to the less accessible parts of the community.


In the Whanganui region special emphasis has been put on vaccinating Māori, Pasifika and other ethnic groups, but there are still those who may not have engaged with health services or are less visible in other ways.


So when a freedom camping site by the Whanganui River was set aside for homeless people during the Alert Level 4 lockdown, it was an opportunity for the vaccination team.


Following an approach by Koha Shed manager Sherron Sunnex, Whanganui District Council opened the site on Anzac Parade to the homeless at the end of August, providing facilities for this vulnerable population.


"We spoke to Civil Defence and local iwi and they helped us make it happen," she said. "They have to provide the necessities for people."


Also supporting the site was the Whanganui Homeless Hub which provided a converted horse float that acted as a vaccination clinic last week.


Vaccination co-ordinator Helen Connole​ said getting homeless people vaccinated was particularly important as they would likely suffer more if they caught coronavirus.


“We have to reach out to people -- we are not expecting them to come to us,” she said.


“We are bringing the vaccination programme to the people. It is all about ease of access for them and having an environment they feel comfortable in.”


The clinic by the river attracted a number of people keen to support Whanganui’s homeless initiative, including MP Harete Hipango who took the opportunity to get herself vaccinated while there.