Covid-19 vaccination for Northlanders aged over 50 and other vulnerable groups has been brought forward to reduce waste and increase the availability of the vaccine.
About 50 people had their jab at Semenoff Stadium in Whangārei in the first 30 minutes, while a similar number waited in the NZ Vikings Lounge, and a small queue of people were seen at the entrance when the walk-in clinic began at noon today.
Those who have been vaccinated will receive their second dose no less than 21 days after receiving the first dose.
Northland District Health Board is offering the vaccination at the Dargaville Town Hall, at St John in Kaikohe, Kaitaia Hospital, at the old Placemakers building in Kerikeri and at Semenoff Stadium in Whangārei at various days and times this week.
The vaccination covers Group 2 which includes kuia, kaumātua and their whānau - including people they live with and their carers - frontline and other healthcare workers, as well as residents in aged-care facilities.
Vaccinators will go to aged-care facilities.
The vaccination also covers people aged 50 and above who fall into Group 3A.
Northland DHB chief executive Dr Nick Chamberlain said the Ministry of Health's Covid-19 vaccination sequencing framework was flexible.
Last week, he said the influenza vaccination was offered to people 65 years and older, while many in that age group have booked to have their influenza vaccination this week.
People must wait for two weeks after their influenza vaccination to have their first Covid-19 vaccination, he said.
"Understandably, people want to have their influenza vaccination first because if they choose to have their Covid-19 vaccination first, it would be some five weeks before they could have their Covid-19 immunisation.
"This has reduced the number of people eligible for Covid-19 vaccination now, so Northland DHB offers anyone 50 years and older the Covid-19 immunisation to minimise the risk of vaccine waste."
Dr Chamberlain said the Covid-19 vaccine was extremely precious and to date Northland DHB has had a 0.0005 per cent wastage rate in the region.
He said the age composition of Northland's rural communities was another factor that influenced the decision to offer those aged 50 years and older the Covid-19 vaccination now.
"It is not efficient to provide a small age-group cohort with the immunisation, so again, to reduce waste and increase the availability of the Covid-19 vaccine, Northland DHB is offering the vaccine to anyone 50 years and older.
"To ensure that there is equal access to all Northlanders we are offering any 50-year-old and over the Covid-19 vaccination now.
"Our Māori and Pasifika population who are over 50 have significant and often multiple health conditions and hence they are much more vulnerable to Covid-19 and they get these conditions at least 15 years earlier than other populations.
"We cannot let Northland lag the rest of New Zealand in yet another health statistic and this is the best way we can to ensure that doesn't happen," Dr Chamberlain said.
Those who turned up at Whangārei's Semenoff Stadium today
said they were surprised the vaccination has been brought forward but were happy for the opportunity.
Retiree Gerald Parry and wife Denise were among the first lot of people who had their jab and hoped the rest of Northland and New Zealand took advantage of the early offer.
"People shouldn't be scared, it's quite an easy process. Let's get it done, guys, and then we can all move forward," was the message from Gerald Parry, 67.
He's confident the vaccination would work given its success in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.
Denise, 63, was rapt to have her jab because she thought she may have to wait until July.
Schoolteacher Robyn Shore was also pleased she was having her first vaccine a month early.
"I was surprised because I am down to have it in May. I thought it's because they had too much stock and were trying to get rid of it. I know this vaccine only lasts so many days so I thought of getting one on my days off work."
Roger Clarke of Parua Bay said it was important Northlanders got to the vaccination clinics, given the way Covid was ravaging populations in some parts of the world.
"I've been having a few jabs since I was 65 so this is part of the routine. My view is, having come here, to see how they are operating, that if they need volunteers to transport people to the clinic, I'll be willing to get people here," the 75-year-old said.
People will need to wait for 14 days after their flu vaccination before they can have their Covid jab.
If they have had their Covid vaccination first, they must wait 14 days after their second dose before having the flu vaccination.
To book for a Covid vaccination, send an email with your full name, phone number, and NHI if you have it, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also walk in, but you may have to wait as those who have booked will be given priority.
Northland Covid-19 vaccination clinics:
Whangārei: Semenoff Stadium, Wednesday 10am-5pm, Saturday and Sunday 9am-2pm, May 4, 12pm-7pm, May 5, 10am-5pm, May 8 and 9 from 9am-2pm)
Dargaville Town Hall (May 3 and May 10, 12 noon-5pm)
Kerikeri: Old Placemakers building, 1 Sammaree Pl, Wednesday 10am-5pm, Thursday 12 noon -7pm, Saturday 9am-2pm, May 5, 10am-5pm, May 6, 12 noon -7pm)
Kaitaia : Kaitaia Hospital, Wednesday 10am-5pm, May 4 and May 5, 10am-5pm, May 8, 9am-2pm)
Kaikohe: St John, 58 Raihara St, April 30, 10am-5pm, May 7, 10am-5pm.