Outbreak of the Covid 19 coronavirus delta: 100 years proud to be among the vaccinated in Mōkau

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By Robin Martin from RNZ

A 100-year-old man was among those vaccinated against Covid-19 at the remote Taranaki-King Country border in Mōkau today.

Mere Wihongi is old enough to remember the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic – which killed 9,000 New Zealanders – and was adamant that she was getting the vaccine.

Born in Northland in December 1920, Mere and her granddaughter Chrisseann were among 100 people registered to be vaccinated at Tainui Wetere Estate.

Mere Wihongi, 100, and her granddaughter Chrisseann Wihongi were among those vaccinated in Mōkau.  Photo / Robin Martin
Mere Wihongi, 100, and her granddaughter Chrisseann Wihongi were among those vaccinated in Mōkau. Photo / Robin Martin

More accustomed to hosting rugby events after games, Maori health provider Tui Ora had turned the room into a pop-up vaccination clinic.

Chrisseann Wihongi, who was raised by her grandmother and now cares for her, said it was a huge day for Mere.

“She’s been through so many things in her life like the Depression. She’s been through a lot of hardship so this is a unique time for her and she realizes that we need to be safe.

“Not just her. We have to protect our families and we have to protect those around us, so that she is here is really important.”

A Maori guard gives advice on parking at the Mōkau pop-up clinic.  Photo / Robin Martin
A Maori guard gives advice on parking at the Mōkau pop-up clinic. Photo / Robin Martin

She said it was Mere who insisted on getting the vaccine after hearing about the latest outbreak.

“As soon as she saw Jacinda she said ‘we have to get the vaccine now’, so she insisted.

“But everyone is so busy, so we are so grateful that Tui Ora was able to provide the service to our small community so that we feel like we are not being forgotten and that we matter too.”

Tui Ora’s lead clinical nurse Robyn Taylor said Mere Wihongi was an inspiration.

Tui Ora's nurse clinician, Robyn Taylor, fills out the paperwork before getting another vaccination.  Photo / Robin Martin
Tui Ora’s nurse clinician, Robyn Taylor, fills out the paperwork before getting another vaccination. Photo / Robin Martin

“Well, she walked in with a smile on her face and she’s still there with a smile on her face, so I think she’s a really good example of taking care of yourself, being proactive and getting the shot. “

Taylor said it was important to bring the vaccine to remote communities such as Mōkau, which had a permanent population of around 120 people.

“I think because people are isolated here. You know there are people with transport but also a lot of people who don’t have transport and if we didn’t come here they probably wouldn’t have the vaccine.

“There are a lot of Maori, a lot of vulnerable people here too, so we wanted to come and be there for them.”

Tui Ora had 100 reservations but expected to vaccinate more people as families brought older children with them.

Semi-retired farmer Bob Warren was glad he didn't have to travel to town to get the shot.  Photo / Robin Martin
Semi-retired farmer Bob Warren was glad he didn’t have to travel to town to get the shot. Photo / Robin Martin

Retired farmer Bob Warren was among those who got bitten. He knew why he was there.

“Oh to get that jab and make things safe for everyone around us and keep everything safe.”

He was glad he didn’t have to make the hour-long trip to New Plymouth.

“Excellent, very good, excellent, eh, very good. Yeah very good. Catch up with all the locals, yeah. I always thought that, yeah. I thought we would end up in town.”

Steve McKenzie, a sheep and oxen farmer, thought the context clinic was ideal for time-poor farmers.  Photo / Robin Martin
Steve McKenzie, a sheep and oxen farmer, thought the context clinic was ideal for time-poor farmers. Photo / Robin Martin

Sheep and beef farmer Steve McKenzie was on the same page.

“Oh, that’s great, it makes life a lot easier, especially when we live so far out in the country, we can’t just go into town and take a jab, so yeah that’s really good.”

Jono O'Sullivan had taken the whole family.  Photo / Robin Martin
Jono O’Sullivan had taken the whole family. Photo / Robin Martin

Jono O’Sullivan – who has taught Myanmar students online – couldn’t fault the service.

“Great, that makes it so much easier. There are a lot of seniors in our neighborhood, in our community, so I think that’s great. I’m quite grateful actually.”

Tui Ora’s Patsy Bodger made sure everyone came home with a care package.

“So in these packs we have hand sanitizers, soap, wipes, masks… but there’s no toilet paper, okay? “

Patsy Bodger of Tui Ora hands over a care package to a couple after completing their observation period.  Photo / Robin Martin
Patsy Bodger of Tui Ora hands over a care package to a couple after completing their observation period. Photo / Robin Martin

Steve McKenzie Sr. thought he lucked out in something tastier.

“Awesome bait, thank you very much!”

Tui Ora will organize similar pop-up clinics in Urenui and Ōpunake tomorrow.

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