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COVID-19: Bay of Plenty, Lakes Health Boards are spending over $250,000 on vaccine incentives

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A_161021aw12.JPG Cars lined up for vaccinations on Good Saturday. Photo/Andrew Warner
210922mwrosslawrensonbop.JPG Ross Lawrenson University of Waikato Professor of Public Health. The attached photo
A_280921gn02bop.JPG The COVID vaccination center at Baypark in Mount Maunganui. Photography / George Novak

More than $250,000 has been spent on incentives such as food and coupons to encourage people to receive a Covid-19 vaccination by health boards in the Bay of Plenty and Lakes.

A public health expert says vaccination incentives were “really important” in achieving high vaccination coverage, and for what was achieved, the amount spent was not huge.

As the country transitions into a “new normal,” he encourages people to think about the vulnerable in society and to cover up when visiting the elderly or the immunocompromised.

Te Whatu Ora Hauora a Toi Bay of Plenty and Te Whatu Ora Lakes, formerly known as the Boards of Bay of Plenty and Lakes District Health, were asked how much they have spent providing free materials to the public to encourage them to get vaccinated during the pandemic.

Information obtained under the Official Information Act showed that Te Whatu Ora – Hauora a Toi Bay of Plenty, spent $177,918 on Covid-19 vaccination incentives between March 2020 and August 2022.

A breakdown showed that she spent $30,860 on food and drink, $97,370 on coupons and $49,688 on attractions.

This included the cost of incentives purchased for the Super Saturday initiative held on October 16, 2021, which was $48,424. This figure included operating expenses such as traffic management, security services and language translation.

Information obtained under the Official Information Act showed that Te Whatu Ora Lakes spent $90,491.74 on Covid-19 vaccination incentives between March 2020 and June 2022.

The breakdown showed that he spent $37322.93 on gift cards and coupons, and $53168.81 on food and drink.

Ross Lawrence, University of Waikato Professor of Public Health. The attached photo

University of Waikato public health professor Ross Lawrence said the incentives have made vaccinating people more effective.

“I think if we’re trying out new ways to make sure we have herd immunity, it’s really important to make sure we get the highest coverage possible.

“When you think about all the salaries of the people who are chasing you and everything else, having the incentives makes it much more efficient in terms of getting people accepted and coming in.

“Within the scope of what has been achieved, I don’t think so [the figures] huge. “

Lawrence said that many health initiatives have looked at making things easier and that vaccination incentives have been a “positive way” to get people interested in it.

“If there are incentives to motivate people, people will use them.”

Whatu Ora Health New Zealand Hauora a Toi Bay of Plenty Chief Immunization Officer and Brent Gilbert de Rios said the collective efforts of the Bay of Plenty healthcare sector were “essential” in protecting against the worst effects of Covid.

“This has included working with communities to drive participation and to deliver vaccination in ways that meet their specific needs,” he said.

“Incentives were one of the methods used to achieve high vaccination rates.”

Lakes District Interim Administrator Te Watu Ora said the county has crossed 90 percent of the first and second immunization milestone – more than 84,600 people – through a “huge collaborative effort” with iwi partners, primary health care providers, social sector organizations and their staff.

Money was spent on Super Saturday, community clinics and food and drink provided as manakish [support].

“The majority of people have been vaccinated to protect themselves and their community and community. They have helped greatly in reducing the likelihood of seeking help from the emergency department or risking hospitalization.”

Ministry of Health data showed that 9,606 new cases of Covid-19 were reported nationally and 74 people died from the virus between September 12-18.

In the Bay of Plenty, there were 435 new cases and in the Lakes region there were 175 new cases.

Among the reported deaths are six from Bay of Plenty. There were no fatalities in the Lake District.

In light of the numbers and the government removing the Covid traffic light system, Lawrenson said it was still important to think about those at risk and those who were most at risk and recommended that people wear a mask when visiting the elderly or immunocompromised.

“It is still present in the community, so the most vulnerable are still at risk and there will still be deaths, unfortunately.

“I think this is the new normal.”

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