Busloads of Aucklanders, and a couple who flew from the South Island, have been turned away from having Covid-19 vaccinations in Northland - and some Northlanders are finding it nearly as hard to get their jabs.
Northland District Health Board (NDHB) is urging patience as it vaccinates those aged over 50 in the region, with vaccination staff receiving abuse from some of those turning up to the vaccination centres.
''Our staff have experienced quite a lot of abusive behaviour so we ask that you please be kind and respectful. Clinic staff are working tirelessly to help protect you against Covid-19,'' NDHB CEO Dr Nick Chamberlain said.
Covid-19 vaccinations for Northlanders aged over 50 and other vulnerable groups were brought forward last month to reduce waste and increase the availability of the vaccine.
Chamberlain said the influenza vaccination was offered to people 65 years and older, while many in that age group booked to have their influenza vaccination the same week.
People must wait for two weeks after their influenza vaccination to have their first Covid-19 shot, hence extending to the over 50s. Initially those wanting one could walk up for a vaccine, but the huge response saw that changed to appointments only, via an 0800 number or email address.
But the Northern Advocate has received a number of calls from Northlanders frustrated by how long it's taking to get a vaccination appointment.
Margaret Spencer, from Kerikeri, is 78 and has been trying - unsuccessfully - since last Thursday to book an appointment.
''I had my flu vaccination a few weeks ago and Thursday was when I was told I can get a Covid vaccination from. But I've rang the (NDHB) 0800 number numerous times — I've lost count of how many - and it cuts out...I've also tried to arrange one from their email address, but it keeps bouncing back,'' Spencer said.
''It's a bit of a debacle and surely they should have know there would be this much interest and arranged for more people to answer the phone.''
She said her 87-year-old friend, also from Kerikeri, had been trying since Friday to get an appointment via the 0800 number, but had not been able to do so.
Chamberlain said the response from the community wanting to book in for a vaccination is extremely heartening and he sincerely thanked them for their patience.
''The community have really responded to the opportunity of being able to book an appointment if they are 50+. Our priority is Northlanders – kuia, kaumātua and their whānau, the people they live with, and their carers, frontline and other healthcare workers and people aged 50 and over,'' he said.
NDHB received 15,667 calls at its 0800 booking number since February 24 - an average of 364 a day. Of this 199 (1.3 per cent) were unanswered and the team are doing their very best to improve this, he said.
''We are in the process of establishing a call-centre so that the community can easily request an appointment and this will make the process much easier for everyone. We have also called on extra staff to address the back-log of requests so people who have emailed or called the 0800 should expect to hear from us in the coming days.''
NDHB will offer walk-in jabs as more providers such as Māori Health providers, pharmacies and general practices start to provide the service over the coming months.
At 9am yesterday 10,238 Covid-19 vaccine doses had been administered in Northland – 8,575 people have received their first dose and 1,663 have got their second dose.
''There is enough Covid-19 vaccine for all eligible Northlanders and the Covid-19 Vaccination programme is running until December this year –so you do not need to rush.''
The Northland Covid-19 Vaccination clinics are only for people who have Northland as their permanent home.
''Over the weekend we had people arrive in bus loads from Auckland asking to be vaccinated, as well as a couple who had flown up from the South island. We declined to vaccinate them noting that our clinics were for Northlanders only.''
Go to https://www.northlanddhb.org.nz/home/covid-19/covid-19-northland-hub/vaccine-programme-information/ for vaccine centres.