National's deputy leader Shane Reti is rolling up his sleeves to help Northland's Covid vaccination drive.
It's a return to Reti's roots — albeit a temporary one — as a Whangārei GP before he won a fellowship at Harvard and entered politics.
On Wednesday Reti gave vaccinations at a pop-up clinic at Ruakākā racecourse; yesterday he was in the Whangaruru area; and tomorrow, Super Saturday, he'll be at Whananāki.
The clinics are part of a drive by Kamo-based Māori health provider Ki a Ora Ngātiwai to bring the vaccine to isolated coastal communities.
In Ruakākā, Reti and Ngātiwai staff spent three hours in full PPE administering jabs, while district health board staff carried out Covid tests.
The initiative was ''very satisfying'' and well received by the Bream Bay community, he said.
It also fitted well with his ideas of how to make a vaccine rollout successful.
''You have to make it easy for people to do the right thing. That means bringing the service to the people and making sure there aren't long wait times.''
Before Northland went into lockdown, Reti said he'd talked to party leader Judith Collins about where he'd be most useful at the current time. He then put his hand up to help Ki a Ora Ngātiwai's rural vaccination drive.
Parliament was currently in recess but would resume next week. If the party felt he was still best put to use in Northland he could apply for whip's leave from Parliament.
While already qualified to dispense other vaccines, he had to spend time ''on-boarding'' before he could administer the Covid vaccine, which required special training and IT.
Reti, who is also National's health spokesman, said the Government had been slow to get GPs involved in the vaccination drive.
That had started now but it was too late and still too slow.
The Health Ministry had justified leaving out general practice at first because of the Pfizer vaccine's demanding cold chain requirements, but Reti said he didn't buy that explanation.
During this weekend's Super Saturday — a nationwide, Telethon-style push to boost vaccination rates around the country — Reti said he would be giving jabs at Whananāki North Hall from 10am-1pm. He was expecting a large turnout.
If there was time, Ki a Ora Ngātiwai staff would go door-knocking in the area offering to drive people to the pop-up clinic
National backed the Super Saturday initiative, Reti said.
''We are supportive of this special day. Our contribution will go beyond just moral support, we'll be out in rural areas putting needles into arms.''
Whananāki's most famous resident is former deputy prime minister Winston Peters, who lives on the south side of the settlement just across the estuary footbridge.
It's not known if Peters plans to put in an appearance at the pop-up clinic.
• Ministry of Health data show the east coast north of Whangārei already has a relatively high vaccine uptake despite pockets of deprivation. In the Pataua area the first-dose rate is 72.3 per cent and the fully-vaccinated rate is 52.9 per cent; further north at Whangaruru, the rates are 71 per cent and 50.2 per cent.
Further north still, the rates start to drop at Rāwhiti with 66.8 per cent and 48.2 per cent, but as of yesterday that was still ahead of the Northland average of 63.5 per cent and 40.5 per cent.
The lowest rate in Northland — and anywhere in New Zealand — is currently in the Waimā area of South Hokianga (47.4 per cent single-dosed and 30.2 per cent double-dosed).