Just over 50 per cent of eligible children and young people have been vaccinated against meningococcal disease across Northland.
The Northland District Health board has arranged for vaccinations to be given at selected pharmacies and additional community clinics throughout the region since December 5 last year.
The total number of vaccinations given in pharmacies by pharmacists and public health nurses as of yesterday was 497.
To date, 11,396 of the 22,707 eligible children aged nine months up to five years old and those aged between 13 and 20 have been vaccinated.
Phase two of the outbreak campaign will be in full swing from next week and vaccination will be offered at general practices, Māori health providers and DHB community clinics.
Two children have died since the outbreak of the deadly MenW strain was declared in November last year. Both were from Northland.
Whangārei mother Jennifer Dysart took her two children — son Josh, 14, and daughter Miriam, 13 — to the Unichem Buchanans Pharmacy in Tikipunga this week and called on others to follow suit.
She was unaware a free vaccination programme was under way until she saw a sign outside the pharmacy while out shopping at Countdown next door.
Having seen a family friend in Tauranga with meningitis end up in a coma and lose vision in one eye, Dysart knows too well the dangers of meningococcal disease.
"That was an adult getting it and I think if you can avoid meningitis by having a free vaccination, then why not? The worrying thing about meningitis is how quickly it develops.
"Having your kids vaccinated would be the way to go. The cost to you if you have meningitis would be so much more than having free vaccination," she said.
Three doses cost about $500 for those who are not eligible for the funded vaccine.
Northland DHB spokeswoman Liz Inch said normally pharmacists could only vaccinate patients aged 16 and over but, in this situation, orders were issued that allowed them to administer the vaccine to patients aged 13 and over.
Public health nurses have been working alongside pharmacies offering vaccination to 9 month to under-5-year-olds, she said.
Six pharmacies across Northland are currently offering the MenW vaccines until February 22. They are Shackletons in Kaitaia, Unichem in Kerikeri, Kamo and Onerahi, Unichem Buchanans and Kensington Pharmacy.