By Rowan Quinn for RNZ
Some South Auckland GPs were turned away when they tried to get vaccinated for Covid at the weekend after spare doses became available.
That's despite them working on the frontline of the outbreak of 15 people centred around Papatoetoe High School that has sent the city back to alert level 3.
The city's district health boards (DHBs) had leftover vaccine after a week of border worker rollouts so offered it to health workers before it spoiled.
But several South Auckland GPs who turned up to get a dose were denied one, leaving them distraught.
The College of GPs president Samantha Murton said one of those turned away was a doctor in his 60s who was swabbing every day in his South Auckland clinic.
"It's just soul-destroying because from a GP perspective we've worked extraordinarily hard to make sure any Covid in the community is hunted down," she said.
An email from the DHBs inviting people to get a vaccine was shared widely but when the GPs turned up they were told it was for DHB staff only, Murton said.
South Auckland doctor Api Talemaitoga said his colleagues were under the pump, dealing with huge testing numbers and potential Covid-19 cases every day.
"It was like a slap in the face that they weren't considered frontline enough to be offered the vaccine," he said.
RNZ understands doctors and nurses at some providers, like South Seas Healthcare, which runs a big testing centre, were able to get vaccinated, and their fellow GPs are pleased for them.
But Murton said some DHB employees who were given vaccines worked in lower-risk jobs, and the DHBs needed to prioritise doctors and nurses who dealt with potential Covid patients.
Another GP, who worked at the heart of the current outbreak and wished to remain anonymous, said he was incredibly disappointed to miss out.
The DHBs needed to be flexible and change their plans to react to outbreaks, he said.
"A plan that made sense with the information from two weeks ago may not make sense now," he said.
The city's DHBs emailed GPs yesterday afternoon apologising for the confusion and asking them not to keep turning up to try to get a vaccine.
They told them they were looking at ways to improve the way they distribute leftover doses.
Taliemaitoga said GP clinics were doing the testing work for the DHBs and "needed to be listened to and respected".
"I really think if there is any excess of vaccine in the future then the offer is given to these people doing this work at the frontline," he said.
RNZ asked the DHBs for details on the situation but a spokesperson said they were busy dealing with the latest community cases and would provide details later.