Photo Credit: Florence Charvin

As featured in current BayBuzz magazine article, Twenty.

Meet the two women who have successfully led Hawke’s Bay DHB’s Covid 19 vaccination roll-out. 

Ngaira Harker, the DHB’s Covid vaccination operation lead, and Andrea Jopling, the DHB’s Covid vaccination project management lead, were both seconded/contracted to their roles early in 2021. 

“To be honest it has been a roller coaster,” says Ngaira, “navigating the need for vaccination uptake and working with the community to support the best approaches to deliver vaccinations.” 

For Andrea “the workload has been immense and so has the pressure to deliver the service and protect the community”. 

Ngaira, Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairoa, is a leader in Māori health education. She is the DHB’s nurse director of Māori health and oversees and advises on Māori health workforce initiatives, supporting and advising on health delivery for whānau, hapū and iwi. She was also recently acting population health manager for HBDHB and is currently a ministry-appointed board member for the Nursing Council of New Zealand. 

She says one of the main challenges as a Māori leader during the vaccine rollout has been ensuring equity is at the forefront of decisions and approaches to increase the vaccination uptake for Māori and Pacific communities. 

“Providing the right teams and approaches that are welcoming to Māori and Pacific communities has been essential in the uptake. 

“Another challenge has been our ability to move quickly and create vaccination spaces in communities to meet the needs and numbers required to be vaccinated.” 

She has loved the challenge though and says she “feels privileged to have been a part of this journey”. 

Andrea is originally from the UK and is an independent consultant working with clients in the health and community service sectors specialising in project management, strategic planning, service design and programme evaluation.

She is currently deputy chair of the Cranford Hospice Trust and in 2019 became the first female director of the Heretaunga Building Society in its 80+ year history.

For Andrea, balancing the public demand for vaccination with the vaccine supply was challenging early in the programme, as was the scrutiny – “There have been a lot of eyes on the rollout and that pressure was intense at times. “It’s not often in your career that you get to take on a project like this, and when it gets really tough, we just remember how important this work is, and that’s enough to keep us focused.”

The two women have worked closely. “Before our team grew, we were pretty much setting up clinics, tents, making cups of tea, you name it, we were supporting,” says Ngaira. “It was a great partnership and was great to share the highs and lows of the roll-out.” Adds Andrea, “Watching our vaccination rates rise as a result of our collective efforts across the sector has been so satisfying, and the teamwork and new relationships formed have been really rewarding.”

Both have a strong aspiration for their work with Covid into 2022. “My aspiration has always been to see our Hawke’s Bay communities, health services and economies protected and for people to be able to do what matters to them freely again,” says Andrea. “I’d also like to see the vaccination debate become less emotive and less polarised and the conversations become more respectful.”

Ngaira aspires to 100% Covid-19 vaccine coverage for Te Matau a Maui “across all our communities. To ensure our whakapapa Māori is not impacted by Covid-19 and we do not see the devastation that occurred during the 1918 flu epidemic. “I hope some positive comes out of this and provides a change in our values to where we become a more caring community that looks out for each other and our wellbeing as a whole.” 

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  1. Such a huge job with an unknown and developing landscape, my respect and thanks go to you both and for all those involved in achieving over 90% HB population vaccinated

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