A Northland Māori health provider is taking a vaccination clinic on the road to make sure no one misses out on the Covid jab.
The mobile clinic made its first foray into the Mid North on Friday, just hours after Northland dropped to level 3, delivering vaccines to isolated whānau around Te Iringa, Waimate North and the outskirts of Kaikohe.
About 30 jabs were given during the trial run, with numbers expected to ramp up this week.
The new service is a collaboration between Te Hau Ora O Ngāpuhi and Hato Hone St John. It will operate weekly for people who have booked a jab but can't get to the vaccination clinic.
Called Kaikohe Waka Ora o Werohanga, the new service will also provide information to whānau who are unsure about vaccination and want to be better informed.
Hato Hōne St John has provided a health shuttle and a trained volunteer driver while Te Hau Ora o Ngāpuhi is providing a registered nurse to administer the vaccinations and a kaimanaaki staff member for administration and whānau ora duties.
Te Hau Ora O Ngāpuhi chief operating officer Tia Ashby said the outreach service was a response to community feedback, including from Kaikohe staff who worked for the national Covid-19 call centre.
"The demand is strong in our community for vaccination but some of our kaumātua and kuia don't feel safe leaving their whare during a lockdown. For other whānau there are challenges associated with disabilities and transport to get to their appointment," she said.
The response to Friday's trial had been ''really, really positive'', she said.
''They're grateful that the service is available and that we're coming out to them.''
Essential workers also had difficulty accessing the vaccine because some clinics were open only during working hours. Waka Ora o Werohanga could help address that by visiting workplaces such as orchards, supermarkets and forestry operations.
Those vaccinated on Friday included a group of horticulture workers from Vanuatu.
Ashby said one of the lessons from the trial was that a four-wheel drive was needed to reach some homes.
Staff had to carry their gear to one kuia's home in backpacks because the shuttle couldn't get up her access way.
While Kaikohe Waka Ora o Werohanga was originally designed to operate one day a week, that was likely to be expanded as part of a drive to boost Māori vaccination rates, which were lagging behind the national average.
Some put the disparity down to vaccine hesitancy but Ashby said the reasons were more complex, with access, transport and a lack of information also playing a part.
If whānau were struggling with housing or putting food on the table, getting vaccinated might not seem like a priority, Ashby said.
''What we're trying to say is, the vaccine is really important because it will protect you and your family if the virus was to get up here.''
Vaccinations would be available for all members of a whānau or bubble over the age of 12.
Ashby said she was grateful to Kaikohe's Hato Hone St John committee for their support.