Starting today Covid-19 vaccinations will be available to everyone in the Russell area aged 15-plus — making it one of the first places in Northland to offer the jab to anyone who wants it.
The town's head start is the result of a partnership between Ngāti Hine Health Trust and the Russell branch of St John, plus a Northland District Health Board policy which allows towns of fewer than 1000 people to start their own vaccine roll-out early.
Similar initiatives are under way in Ōmapere, in South Hokianga, and Te Kao, on the Aupouri Peninsula 70km north of Kaitaia.
Other unique features of the Russell vaccination programme include its own booking system — bypassing the waiting times faced by callers to the Northland-wide booking system — as well as a dedicated Facebook page, community communications plan and health shuttles for people who don't have their own transport or don't want to drive after getting the jab.
The Ngāti Hine-St John partnership aims to vaccinate more than 200 people a day at the St John rooms on York St.
About 220 people are booked to get their shots starting at 8am today.
St John Russell area committee chairwoman Diane Smith said it was ''incredibly exciting'' to be at the forefront of the vaccine rollout to the wider community.
Ngāti Hine had set up the St John rooms ''extremely efficiently'' with a marquee outside, a drawing-up room for preparing syringes, four vaccination booths and a recovery room.
Ngāti Hine staff would perform the vaccinations with St John emergency medics on hand in case of adverse reactions. Russell Medical Centre was in the same building.
Smith said people would be transported in two health shuttles from the wider Russell area, including Ōkiato, Te Wahapu and Tapeka, as well as Rāwhiti and down the coast to Ngaiotonga.
Much of the community was involved with former community board representative Terry Greening and friends providing security and co-ordinating parking, and Russell Bowling Club providing extra parking space.
The jabs would be offered over two days once every three weeks.
The initiative had been driven by Russell St John volunteer Bridget Hughes, Smith said.
Jeanette Wedding, general manager of rural, family and community services for the Northland District Health Board, said the country's 20 health boards had been given flexibility to meet the needs of local communities and take a whānau-centred approach to the rollout.
In rural towns such as Russell, with populations less than 1000, vaccination was being offered to local residents aged 15-plus.
That was also occurring in other small Northland towns such as Te Kao and Ōmapere.
While those areas were among the first in Northland to start a community-wide roll-out they weren't the first in the country. Reefton, on the South Island's West Coast for example, started on May 13.
As of Monday morning, according to health board figures, 26,551 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine had been given in Northland.
A total of 17,570 people had received their first dose and 8981, or 51 per cent of those who had been vaccinated, had received both doses.
Northland was ahead of its end-of-week Ministry of Health target by 869 vaccinations.
As part of Northland's vaccine roll-out for kaumātua and kuia, the jab was already available to anyone who shared their household regardless of age. However, vaccination had not previously been offered to all Northlanders aged 15-plus.