Efforts to vaccinate people against Covid-19 are ramping up in the Bay of Plenty as an outbreak of the feared Delta strain spreads in Auckland and Wellington.
The Bay of Plenty District Health Board is ahead of its overall vaccination target thanks to an early blitz but has missed weekly targets for the last seven weeks.
Now GPs and pharmacies are joining the rollout, expanding access to the Pfizer vaccine in communities across the region.
The official rollout began in February with managed isolation and border workers - Group 1 - first in line. From August 25, all those aged 30 and over are eligible to book their jabs.
The Western Bay of Plenty had three vaccination centres including Trustpower Baypark and Katikati RSA.
Over the next two weeks, 10 general practices will also have the green light to vaccinate.
Fifth Avenue Medical Centre GP Dr Luke Bradford said he was ready to "ramp up" the vaccine availability. His practice started vaccinating on Friday.
He said there were many factors as to why it had taken a long time for practices to be part of the health board-led rollout.
"First of all it was the vaccine supply nationally, that was the real reason. And then it was about setting up the protocols for vaccination in primary care and pharmacies and then getting staff trained for this vaccine.
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"We've streamlined that process as much as we can."
He hoped GPs starting to vaccinate would help the DHB hit weekly targets, saying overall it was about giving people options.
"What we're trying to do is make it as accessible as possible through different mediums - and certainly one is not better than another. It's just trying to give people as many options as we can so that we can get this vaccination program rolled out as quickly as possible."
More than 118,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine had been given to people registered with the Bay of Plenty District Health Board to August 15, the latest Ministry of Health data shows.
That is more than 5300 doses over the board's goal for this point in the rollout.
The vaccination schedule calls for each person to receive two doses.
The DHB serves an estimated 259,090 people, according to the Ministry.
It has not hit its weekly vaccination targets since the last week of June.
In the first three weeks of August, it missed its goals by thousands each week, even as the number of vaccines given stepped up.
The ministry confirmed this week there were 77,000 active future bookings in the National Immunisation Booking System for the DHB.
Bay of Plenty District Health Board incident controller Trevor Richardson said the board was committed to an equitable approach.
This was illustrated by Māori and Pacific kaumātua and whānau being offered the vaccine since April, he said.
Richardson said it wasn't just general practitioners joining the health board's vaccination forces, with many pharmacies across the region also coming on board. It brings the total of community providers up to 36.
"Twelve are general practices, two are in the Eastern Bay and 10 in the Western Bay.
"Two practices are now providing the vaccine with the remaining 10 expected to be administering the vaccine within the next fortnight."
Twenty-one pharmacies have expressed interest in providing vaccinations. Three are in the Eastern Bay, with the remainder in the Western Bay.
"Of the three pharmacies in the East, two are expected to be vaccinating next week along with two pharmacies in the Western Bay.
"Other pharmacies are expected to come on stream in the near future."
The Bay of Plenty Times sought further comment from the DHB on why the weekly targets had been missed. It has also requested a list of community providers.
Mount Medical general practitioner James Peckett said the practice would start vaccinating this week.
"We've got the trust element going, we see the same people and they see the same faces as they come in. We expect we will be reaching some people who won't take the initiative and book online.
Peckett believed some patients may be put off by the big vaccination sites, as it may remind them of long wait times some testing stations had seen.
"Hopefully if they know their GP is doing it they will know we will be running on time."
Both The Doctors Bayfair and The Doctors Pāpāmoa were set up to start vaccinating, the organisation confirmed.
How are Māori health organisations helping?
The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners has backed calls this week for Māori and Pacifica whānau to be prioritised in the vaccine rollout.
College president Dr Samantha Murton said data proved Māori and Pacific populations had greater health needs and ensuring they were vaccinated was not just a practical idea.
"It is a fundamental equity issue to vaccinate these communities now because the effects of Covid-19 for them will be more damaging than other groups.
"Ensuring our most vulnerable groups are vaccinated and able to have a chance at fighting Covid-19 will also mean we're preventing the possible overwhelm of the health system."
Poutiri Trust general manager Kirsty Maxwell-Crawford said the Western Bay-based trust had vaccinated 150 people during lockdown through its mobile vaccination clinic.
"And we have another 360 booked in for this week.
"Our teams will be not only in Te Puke but also Matakana Island, Hairini Marae, Tamapahore Marae and in Matapihi. Our mobility is critical to ensure we are accessible for whānau and the new drive-through process is working really well."
Bookings can be made by calling 0800 573 0091 or online through the Poutiri Trust website.
The Whakatōhea Health Centre in Ōpōtiki is now also offering the vaccine, on behalf of the district health board, at a drive-through service.
Practice manager Teina Hudson said 108 doses were given on Friday when it first opened and a further 204 appointments were made for Tuesday.
"It's going amazingly well.
"We're so proud of our team, wider iwi support team, and the Ōpōtiki general practices to have turned this around. It's important we continue to offer the protection of the vaccine during this time."
Richardson, of the DHB, said programmes such as this would be instrumental in the success of the vaccine delivery.
"Reaching rural communities, like Ōpōtiki, with higher Māori populations is a key focus for our team as these communities could be more at risk in a widespread outbreak."
People can book their vaccine through the Whakatōhea Health Centre by calling any of the three Ōpōtiki general practices: Whakatōhea Health Centre, Toi Ora, and Church Street Surgery.
The Ōpōtiki general practices are contacting their enrolled patients to ask if they would like to be put on the Covid-19 vaccination waiting list. The Ōpōtiki booking team then contacts those on the waiting list directly to book their appointment.
Te Puna Ora o Mataatua also administers the Covid-19 vaccine in Ōpōtiki on Saturdays. People can book by calling 0800 628 228.