The Bay of Plenty is on track to hit 90 per cent full vaccination against Covid-19 just in time for Christmas.
But the deputy mayor of one of the least vaccinated areas in the Bay of Plenty District Health Board region says she is having "sleepless nights" worrying about what will happen when the Auckland border opens on December 15.
As of Thursday, 89 per cent of the DHB's eligible population had received one dose, while 79 per cent were fully-vaccinated. It needed to administer 2293 first doses and 22,934 second doses to reach the 90 per cent target.
The region has 40 active cases of Covid-19.
DHB Covid-19 senior responsible officer Brent Gilbert De Rios said, based on a rolling seven-day average, the DHB expected to reach 90 per cent for first doses next week.
He anticipated the full vaccination milestone would follow about three weeks later.
While 33 of the DHB region's 98 suburbs have already hit the target for first doses, others have been slower, with seven having a full vaccination rate of less than 60 per cent, according to Ministry of Health data from Wednesday.
Pyes Pa, Tauranga Central, Mount Maunganui, Bethlehem, and Otumoetai South are among the suburbs with first dose vaccination rates above 90 per cent.
Matua North, Te Maunga South, and Pyes Pa West are also the top three most vaccinated suburbs in the DHB area. Matua North is 89 per cent fully vaccinated, while just over 86 per cent of residents in Te Maunga South and Pyes Pa West have received their second jab.
Vaccination rates are lowest in Ōpōtiki, Oponae, Te Teko Lakes, Galatea, Whangara-Waimana and Murupara, where less than 60 per cent of residents are fully vaccinated.
Murupara has the lowest vaccination rates in the DHB area with only 42.4 per cent of residents having received their second jab.
Murupara Community Board chairwoman Jackie Te Amo said she feared when Auckland opened, "Delta will be everywhere".
In lower vaccinated suburbs, there would be a lot of sick people who needed hospitals which she feared could collapse the health system, she said.
"I'm hoping that our people [who] are living in these communities ... are really thinking seriously about being vaccinated."
Te Amo said a "lack of information" was a barrier to getting the vaccine.
However, Te Puna Ora o Mataatua had been doing "extremely well" in getting people in Murupara vaccinated by taking the vaccine to the people, she said.
Te Waimana in the Eastern Bay of Plenty had its first positive Covid case confirmed on Wednesday.
"This could've happened to any community - it's just unfortunate it happened to Te Waimana. But they shouldn't be looked down upon."
Te Amo said there was "a lot of stigma" directed at the Samoan community in Auckland during the Delta outbreak.
"We need to be sharing korero that's going to be uplifting to those communities."
Ōpōtiki District Council deputy mayor Shona Browne said the district was "moving heaven and earth to change those percentages".
"We're doing everything within our power to get people to change their minds and get vaccinated."
There were gatherings where people were invited to talk about their concerns about the vaccine, she said.
Barriers to getting vaccinated included the false belief that Covid was "no different" to the normal flu, distrust in the government, and not liking being told what to do with their bodies.
Browne feared the Delta outbreak could get out of control once the Auckland border opened and the traffic light system was in place.
"I am having sleepless nights wondering how all this is going to pan out.
"It just worries me how responsible are people going to be."
Several businesses had told her they were "really concerned" about enforcing the traffic light system rules on unvaccinated customers.
"They're not looking forward basically to the confrontations - they're not going to be pleasant.
"We're a small town - we know everybody."
Te Manu Toroa chief executive Pat Cook said vaccination rates in rural Eastern Bay were among the lowest in the country.
"So, an outbreak there could be potentially devastating for a small rural community.
"However, by now, everyone has had the chance to get vaccinated, which has always been touted as the best preparation against a potential outbreak. So, the Eastern Bay is probably as best prepared as they can be."
Cook said there was still time for people to get vaccinated and for the Eastern Bay to be better prepared for a Covid outbreak.
Even though its rohe was in Western Bay, Te Manu Toroa had worked with Ngati Awa health and social services to hold vaccination days in Whakatāne and Te Teko.
"We've done this to support our neighbours and also to support Māori vaccination efforts."
Gilbert de Rios said the DHB was connecting with community leaders and providers in areas where vaccine uptake could improve.
He said addressing information and improving accessibility was "fundamental" to this.
"Empowering communities to get in behind the vaccine drive has led to significant gains in recent weeks."
Examples included the DHB supporting community-led campaigns in Kawerau and Ōpōtiki.
The board was making it "as easy and accessible as possible" for everyone to get vaccinated in the lead-up to Christmas.
Mobile vaccination and education teams were going to rural areas and those with low vaccination uptake to have the kōrero about the vaccine, he said.
The DHB was also supporting several pop-up clinics and helping with initiatives that best encouraged different communities to get vaccinated.
Tauranga City Council Commission chairwoman Anne Tolley said it was "even more crucial" for everyone to be fully vaccinated in the lead-up to Christmas and the start of the traffic light system.
"People who have been fully vaccinated are less likely to catch the virus and they're much less likely to need hospitalisation or to die as a result of infection."
While some of the figures were "heartening to hear", Tolley said the Bay needed to continue its vaccination journey and "get as close as possible to 100 per cent fully-vaccinated".
"And if you need any more reasons to get vaccinated, remember that many of the places we will want to go to this summer – events, cafes, entertainment venues and many more locations – will only be accessible if you're fully vaccinated and have a vaccine pass to prove it."
University of Canterbury professor and Covid-19 modeller Michael Plank said suburbs with low vaccination rates would have more people affected by the introduction of vaccine passes.
Unvaccinated people would not be able to access many non-essential services such as bars, gyms and restaurants, he said.
Bay of Plenty DHB area 90% one-dose suburbs
Pyes Pa West
Mount Maunganui South
Te Maunga South
Pyes Pa South
Palm Beach South-Gravatt
Pyes Pa North
Te Puke East
Mount Maunganui Central
Te Puke West
Mount Maunganui North
Source: Ministry of Health