The 90% Project: Northland doctors sign letter alongside 5000 Kiwi health experts backing vaccine

Northland doctors have added their signatures to an open letter endorsed by nearly 5000 colleagues nationwide expressing their absolute support for the Covid-19 vaccine.

In the first 40 hours the letter penned by Doctors Stand Up For Vaccination (DSUFV), was published, more than 2000 GPs, physicians in respiratory and infectious disease, and public health, paediatricians and other health experts signed their support.

DSUFV was forged by a group of Kiwi doctors concerned about the volume of misinformation circulating about the Covid-19 vaccine.

They are backed by several notable health organisations, including the New Zealand Medical Association, Pasifika Medical Association, Te Ora, and the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners.

The open letter was a way for DSUFV to speak directly to the New Zealand public.

“We overwhelmingly support vaccination against Covid-19 and other public health measures such as mask use in public areas, physical distancing and hand hygiene,” the letter reads.

“These measures are not just an individual choice. When we undertake these measures we do so for our whānau, friends, work colleagues and the entire country.”

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The letter thanks Kiwis for their “hard work” to “keep our shores largely free” from the virus.

Whangārei Hospital’s clinical director of the Emergency Department and Emergency Physician Dr Marysha Gardner said her decision to sign the open letter hadn’t been taken lightly.

“It’s a huge deal. I felt it was important to have a voice and be part of a unified message to our communities. Aside from containment, border controls and lockdowns, our only protection against Covid is vaccination.”

She said her key message to Northlanders was “simple” – “get vaccinated”.

“Do this for you, do this for your whānau. And do it now.”

This comes as the Advocate and its NZME sister publications launched The 90% Project, which aims to get at least 90 per cent of New Zealanders vaccinated against Covid-19 by Christmas.

A major focus of the campaign will be ensuring that under-represented communities, including young people, Māori and Pasifika, get the same protection as all New Zealanders.

In Northland, more than a quarter of the region’s eligible population has received both doses of the Covid vaccination.

Around 153,600 vaccine doses have been administered to eligible Northlanders. Of this, 97,969 people have received one dose while 55,574 are fully vaccinated.

However, conspiracy theories and fears that the vaccine was rushed had hampered uptake for some Kiwis.

A brief FAQ document accompanying the letter provides “medically sound” and “approved advice” to address these and other worries.

Dr John Bonning, president of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine and chairman of the Council of Medical Colleges, said the letter he helped author catered for people who were hesitant about the vaccine.

“Nowadays the internet is a wonderful library but it’s also the world’s biggest junkyard. We want to help people who are nervous about the vaccine find reliable and trusted information,” Bonning said.

Accurate information was vital as the vaccine was “our only chance of living with the virus” when the country moved strategies from elimination to mitigation, Bonning said.

While the vaccine doesn’t completely prevent Covid, it does “drastically” lessen the impact of the virus.

Not only does it protect the health system in general but vaccinated people were less likely to transmit the virus, as well as less likely to become extremely ill and require hospitalisation, Bonning said.

Bonning pointed to evidence in the current outbeak in both New Zealand and Australia where unvaccinated people were disproportionately represented in hospitalisations.

He said uptake was especially important for indigenous and marginalised populations who were already disadvantaged within the health system and kept vulnerable by social determinants.

“Just think of it as protecting your communities and whānau,” he said.

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