Cartoon image of a man showing his arm where he received a vaccination

We had a chat with Midlands COVID-19 Regional Immunisation Advisor Olivia Haslam to learn more about her and the work she does in her region. She also shares some more details about her background as a pharmacist vaccinator.

  • Q: Tell us about your role at IMAC and in the COVID vaccination programme for NZ?
  • A: I like to think of our role here in IMAC during this COVID vaccination programme is to walk alongside all providers, from MoH, to DHB to the smallest of vaccinating services. We are here to provide clinical support and ensure the safe delivery of the largest vaccination program in our history. I feel privileged to be contributing to this important mahi, advocating to support vaccinators and the wider workforce to ensure we are providing a high-quality health service.

  • Q: Can you share a little about what you did before joining IMAC?
  • A: I am a registered pharmacist and have worked in community pharmacy for the last 8 years, 7 as a pharmacist vaccinator. I was on maternity leave after my first child during lockdown but came out of this to meet the urgent need of pharmacists during the level 3 and 4 lockdowns in 2020. I followed the developments and news on COVID vaccines with interest and jumped at the chance to be involved with this program.

  • Q: What are you seeing as some unique challenges facing COVID vaccinators and the vaccine rollout in the Midlands Region? How might they be resolved or changed?
  • A: We have such a range of areas, from urban Tauranga or Hamilton to small little rural towns like Kawhia or Mangakino. Within these different regions, there are whole communities who range from very accepting of the vaccine to others who hold reservations. One size fits all doesn’t work. We must empower our local providers to be able to support their community whom they know best. That can look like IMAC going in and educating different groups, such as practice nurses or groups of Pasifika church elders, who may act as immunisation advocates.

  • Q: Can you share a little bit about what you like doing outside of work?
  • A: My life outside of work consists of running around after a toddler, stopping her from putting jam in the dogs ears again. Alongside this I also enjoy shopping, seeing new places and relaxing with friends and family.

  • Q: What has been a highlight for you at IMAC so far?
  • A: I was doing a peer assessment on a provisional vaccinator where I observed him vaccinate. A patient came in very distraught. She didn’t want the vaccine. She was terrified of the health system. Her medical conditions made her very vulnerable to the potential effects of COVID disease, which put her in a position where she had to enter the medical world again to get the vaccine to be protected. She was angry, scared, and had no trust in doctors or hospitals as she preferred Maori health provider as it was the only place, she felt safe. She spoke fluent Te Reo, which the vaccinator I was observing was able to converse with her in and allay her fears and concerns in a culturally safe manner.

The vaccinator and the patient had a long korero around his history, her experiences, and her stories of how she ended up there today. We said a karakia before the vaccination and took the whole process at her pace. She led this event. 10mins later she was in observation and we were hugging and talking together. I believe that she felt heard and understood in what is a cold and clinical environment can be.

The peaceful and respectful way this vaccinator immediately and instinctively knew how to handle her concerns and fear blew me away. It was beautiful. We may do 100s of vaccinations a day, but for the patient sitting in front of you, this is often the most important event of their day. It is a big, special event for them. We must respect and understand that!!