Two Wellington nurses have taken an ordinary campervan and turned it into a mobile clinic all in the name of influenza and COVID-19 research.
The nurses are part of the ESR-led WellKiwis and SHIVERS-II studies to support the global effort to develop effective vaccines for COVID-19 and the flu.
The two studies follow Wellington adults and children over a number of years. SHIVERS-II focuses on adults’ immune responses to the flu and COVID-19, while WellKiwis follows new-born babies to better understand how their first flu or COVID-19 exposure influences their ongoing immune responses.
WellKiwis/SHIVERS-II Nursing Coordinator, Tineke Jennings says the COVID-19 pandemic has meant finding a creative solution to keep everyone safe.
“As part of the study we take nose swabs from children and adults if they start showing signs of having the flu or COVID-19 symptoms. If they receive a positive result, we go back to take blood samples – so it’s important that we find a way to do this safely, which means keeping nurses out of homes,” says Tineke.
“The simplest and safest way to do that was to go mobile. We wear full protective clothing, such as masks, gloves, visor and gown and use the van as a clinic to take all the tests we need. It also means we can keep providing hands-on support to participants who may have concerns about their or their child’s health.”
Twelve participants have already been tested in the mobile clinic, but the number is likely to significantly increase as the flu season continues.
Both the WellKiwis and SHIVERS-II studies will help scientists and researchers better understand participants’ exposures to both influenza and COVID-19 which is critically important to tailoring public health responses appropriately.
The studies are also expanding to include the full households of participants to provide important information about the spread of COVID-19.