The 90% Project: Why being a transient town makes vaccination vital for Bulls

Sitting at the intersection of State Highways 1 and 3, the central North Island town of Bulls has thousands of vehicles travel through every day.

A location of interest in the town in August was a reminder for residents about the reality of Covid-19.

Logan Tutty talks to locals about how the town’s vaccination effort is going.

Rangitīkei mayor Andy Watson has been impressed by the number of locals who have put their hands up and helped with the vaccination effort.

“There has been a real concerted effort to get vaccinated,” he says.

“From a personal and community perspective, I would love to see the 90 per cent achieved with both vaccinations by Christmas. That would be a huge step forward.”

At the moment, locals can get vaccinated at the Bulls Medical Centre or at clinics at Te Matapihi, where bookings and walk-ins are taken every Tuesday.

Bulls Medical Centre GP Dr Ken Young said the uptake from locals has been encouraging.

“Most people have been pretty good. The Whanganui District Health Board has run a number of clinics at Te Matapihi, which it continues to do as well as running vaccinations at our medical centre.

“We are very keen to get the vaccination up because on the evidence, vaccination is your best chance of staying out of hospital and out of an intensive care unit.”

He said the vaccination process so far had managed to collect the “very enthusiastic” people, but work was still needed to be done for people who are a bit hesitant.

“We need to make sure they get the appropriate information to make an informed decision.”

In August, two locations of interest were revealed in Bulls which brought a bit more reality to the situation, Watson said.

“It was a timely reminder that this isn’t just an Auckland issue.”

Young said when the locations of interest were announced, a number of locals appropriately went and got tested.

“I think it did increase awareness for the potential of the disease getting out. Hopefully it encouraged people to get on with it and get vaccinated.”

Being the junction of State Highways 1 and 3, thousands of vehicles travel through the town daily.

Watson said a number of locals work in all directions, including Whanganui and Palmerston North.

Young said due to the nature of the town and how many people travel through Bulls daily, there is certainly a risk that Covid-19 could be inadvertently spread by someone passing through.

“Bulls may have a somewhat higher risk than some other towns that aren’t sitting on State Highway 1.”

Whilst a lot of focus and energy has and should go towards Covid-19, Young said other diseases “haven’t suddenly taken a holiday” and urged people to be wary and get their other jabs.

“We should be getting all other immunisations for our children done regardless of the Covid-19 vaccination.

“This epidemic will not just disappear from the world in a short space of time, but we need to manage it and not let it take over and create more problems than it needs to.”

Watson said while he hadn’t been able to travel to Bulls as much as he would’ve liked due to the Covid-19 lockdown, he has been on the ground in Marton volunteering at vaccination clinics.

“Te Rūnanga o Ngā Wairiki Ngāti Apa have had a core role in this partnership with the Whanganui DHB. I spent several days as a volunteer, ticking people off and registering people.”

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