Pharmacy staff give COVID-19 jab the thumbs up

04 May 2021

Frontline health workers on the Coromandel have begun rolling up their sleeves for the COVID-19 vaccine with two staff members at Mercury Bay Pharmacy among those who have received the first jab.

Jacqui Asplin and Julie Denning-Kemp travelled to the vaccination clinic at Thames Hospital on Wednesday last week to receive the first of two doses of the Pfizer vaccine in what say was an easy and painless process.

“It was super easy,” Jacqui says. “Our appointment was at 9:30am, we had some forms to fill in, we answered some medical history questions and then we were called in, it was over before I knew it, I didn’t even feel the injection.”

Pharmacy staff are included in Group 2, the current phase of the vaccine schedule which, along with frontline health workers, includes long-term residential care staff and residents, and older Maori or Pacific people being cared for by whanau. 

Vaccines for Group 3 are due to commence later this month and will target people aged 65 or older, those with disabilities, pregnant women, anyone with a relevant underlying health condition and people living in custodial settings such as prisons.

“We are getting close to having this rolled out to the wider public and we have lots of customers asking us questions about the vaccine, some aren’t sure what it involves and some are bit scared,” Jacqui says. “So it’s nice to be able to put people’s minds at rest by letting them know we have had it done and it was absolutely fine.”

Waikato District Health Board is coordinating the vaccine delivery programme locally and Jacqui says this will be stepping up in the coming weeks with the vaccine being also being administered in Whitianga. “They are working through the process of compiling lists of all those who want to have it, because it is voluntary, then they will know how much vaccine supply they will need and they will come and do the vaccinations here,” she said. 

The DHB had contacted healthcare providers inviting them to provide details of staff who wished to be vaccinated. “From there it was a really simple process,” Jacqui says. “I sent through the names and the next day they sent me through a choice of available times, and then we just booked in. Obviously, our whole staff couldn’t go at the same time, so Julie and I decided we would go first. It felt quite significant when I got that email saying your COVID-19 vaccination time is confirmed. It has been such a tough year and we’ve waited so long to get to this point so it was quite exciting to realise that it is actually happening, the vaccine is here and the process is underway.”

As well as reasons linked to their jobs, both Jacqui and Julie say there was a personal aspect to their decision to be vaccinated. “I would really like to travel again, hopefully in the not too distant future, and I think it’s likely that being vaccinated could become a requirement for that in some places,” Jacqui says. “I did read the information about the vaccine and did some research beforehand, and I was confident it was the right thing to do.”

Apart from some mild soreness at the injection site, typical of any vaccination, both ladies say they had no symptoms or side effects. “We went and had a coffee and a wander around Goldfields Mall wearing our stickers saying I’ve had the COVID-19 vaccine, they even gave us a lollypop,” Jacqui laughs.

With flu season underway, Jacqui also suggests that over 65s who are keen to have the flu vaccine did so as soon as possible so they were ready to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as they became eligible. “That’s because there needs to be a two-week wait between the two vaccines, so it just makes sense to get the flu vaccine done so you won’t have to put off your COVID-19 vaccine when the time comes,” she says. Both vaccines are free.

Merle Edwards from Grey Power Whitianga says the organisation was being proactive in encouraging its members to take up the offer of the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it was available to them. “We circulated an email to all our members which had been sent out by the Grey Power NZ Federation Health National Advisory Group,” she says. “We 100 percent support their recommendation that members protect themselves and others in the community by being vaccinated.”

“We are all aware that vaccinations are the most effective way of protecting not only ourselves but also those around us,” the National Advisory Group stated. “This is another way we can continue to be part of the ‘team of 5 million’ doing our duty to try to eradicate this virus from the community. Many of our seniors already utilise the various immunisation programmes available to ensure our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren are protected from the many illnesses which are part of our day to day living.

“In recommending the vaccine to our seniors, it is also timely to remind them that we must continue to use the contact tracing app, sign into premises, wearing a mask when out and about on public transport, social distancing, washing our hands, staying home if sick and if necessary getting tested.” 

Vaccination for the general public is scheduled to begin in July.

Pictured: Mercury Bay Pharmacy staff member, Jacqui Asplin, after she has received her first COVID-19 vaccination shot at Thames Hospital last week.