Ten New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) medical personnel have been putting their training into action at the Sky Stadium drive-through vaccination centre this week as part of Op Protect.

With an aim to vaccinate 1,000 Wellington residents per day, staff from the NZDF, Capital and Coast District Health Board, Tū Ora Primary Health Organisation, Whitireia Polytech nursing students and Wellington Free Ambulance have come together to help vaccinate Wellingtonians.

Major Bronwyn Clulow, a Senior Nursing Officer in the New Zealand Army, is in charge of the NZDF team at the centre after earlier this year being involved with Operation Vaccinate, the NZDF vaccination programme to vaccinate military and civilian NZDF personnel.

“It’s been extremely rewarding. I was sitting at home at the start of lockdown, with a valuable skill set as a Registered Nurse, feeling like I should be doing something to help out. This mass vaccination task has provided me the opportunity to add value and contribute to protecting New Zealand in a slightly different way to normal.” 

Lance Corporal Lara Dessoulavy, a medic in the NZ Army, is relishing the opportunity to participate in Op Protect, the NZDF contribution to the all-of-government response to Covid-19.

“I really enjoy being able to put all my training into place, and being able to show what the NZDF health team can do for the community. It is not often that NZDF medics gets to help the civilian community so it makes me feel proud and honoured.

“To graduate as a medic I completed two-and-a-half years at Defence Health school. Earlier this year, I also completed an online course for the Pfizer vaccine and Covid Immunisation Register training. This is also mandatory to administer the Pfizer vaccine. Our NZDF doctors and nurses who have additional knowledge about Coronavirus and the Pfizer vaccine have also provided numerous amounts of in-house training.”

Living and working together in one bubble, the team travelled from Trentham Military Camp in Upper Hutt to Sky Stadium in the city each day, ready for the drive-through centre to begin at 9am and its flat tack for the day until the final car leaves at around 5pm.

“It has its advantages. We know each other’s level of experience as well as roles and capabilities. At the end of the day we get the chance to talk about how everyone’s day went, ask each other questions”, said LCPL Dessoulavy.

Working together, the teams have already vaccinated more than 6,000 people across two floors of the Sky Stadium car park. NZDF and civilian staff have been part of the same teams, building strong relationships and sharing skills and experience. 

The drive-through clinic finishes today, Friday 3 September, by which time nearly 7,000 people will have received a dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

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