More than 4600 Covid-19 vaccines have already been delivered across the Bay of Plenty.
And that number is set to increase as the vaccine programme rolls out in 33 aged care facilities throughout the region.
Former All Blacks' captain and Bay of Plenty DHB orderly Stu Wilson jumped at the chance to receive his second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine today at Tauranga Hospital.
"Someone says you are getting a free jab, and I am in straight away," said the 66-year-old.
"We are at the vulnerable age, mid-60s, and we are pretty aware of what is happening around the world," he said.
Bay of Plenty District Health Board chief medical officer Kate Grimwade said they started vaccinating both aged care facility residents and carers at the start of this week.
Bay of Plenty DHB Covid-19 incident controller Trevor Richardson said the full aged care rollout was expected to run for about eight weeks.
"All residents at 33 rest homes and staff will be offered Covid-19 vaccinations."
Grimwade said so far the Covid-19 vaccine rollout had been a "great success" in the Bay.
"As of this morning, we have delivered 4625 vaccines across the district, which really represents the amazing effort by everybody involved.
"We have seen great success of the rollout."
Elderly Māori living with whānau outside of aged care facilities were next in line, she said.
"We recognise that our older Māori, who are very vulnerable to Covid-19, may not be in our aged residential care facilities.
"It is not just about looking after our staff, it is about caring for and protecting the communities that we are serving. And it is about our Treaty obligations to some of our most vulnerable communities."
Information about the vaccine would be made available to elderly Māori through local health providers and community links.
"The information will come to you," she said.
Grimwade said vaccinations would start to roll out to the general community in mid-May, with vaccination centres to open throughout the region.
Asked about how the DHB was working to address Covid-19 vaccine conspiracies and misinformation in the region, Grimwade said the first step was to "accept and acknowledge" how people felt.
"It is difficult, people are scared. It is a very human response."
The way to combat the circulation was to spread true stories around the vaccine, she said.
"People reach for stories because they are worried about what is going to happen. The best thing we can do is spread the true stories and try to make that the predominant storytelling in the community.
"We have an amazing story of a vaccine that has been developed faster than has ever happened and has been rolled out globally in a way we have never seen before. We have to make sure our story is more compelling."
BOPDHB Pou Tikanga in Te Pare ō Toi / Māori Health Gains and Development Graham Cameron said conspiracies and misinformation were most commonly spread via social media.
He said multi-layered communication was key, and the DHB was making sure its voice was heard online.
To prevent the spread of misinformation in Māori communities, there needed to be regular communication with trustworthy individuals and health providers.
"When they see people they know speaking about the vaccine, giving the right information – that is what changes minds, he said.
"Kaumatua, kuia and community leaders talking about their experience getting the Covid-19 vaccine has been really successful in changing people's minds who might be considered hesitant."
Cameron said their biggest concern was making sure the elderly were protected from Covid-19.
"That is a key push in our campaigning around encouraging the Covid-19 vaccination across the Bay of Plenty.
"One in four of our population in the Bay of Plenty is Māori. It is a significant proportion, and as the district health board – we recognise we have this obligation to ensure equity in our response with our Māori communities."
Wilson, who joined the hospital as an orderly earlier this year, said he didn't experience any side effects after the first Covid-19 vaccine dose.
"It felt a little bit sore, I got a bit of a bruise afterwards but apart from that nothing. Something that doesn't hurt for free, I will line up again," he said.
"So to anyone out there who is it not going to get it – it is your choice. But my choice is I want a bit more time.
"I am just a foot soldier, but I am a safe foot soldier now. And I can only say thank you very much for giving me the job and giving me the opportunity to have a jab."