If someone had told us two years ago we would be asking people to be vaccinated against a potentially lethal disease like Covid-19 we wouldn't have believed it – but here we are. We are living in a very different world.
Despite what some may tell you, we still live in a free and democratic society. But, like it or not, living in a free and democratic society comes with responsibilities.
No one likes being told to stay at home to "save lives". It is a daunting, scary proposition.
That's what we were told to do 18 months ago. Now we have a new mission: Vaccinate and save lives.
But while the task might have changed, the reason hasn't. It is the only realistic way back to the pre-pandemic freedoms we used to enjoy – and want to again.
That is why we launched the 90% Project - a campaign to get 90 per cent of eligible Kiwis fully vaccinated by Christmas.
The Advocate is joining with our sister publications – New Zealand Herald, Bay of Plenty Times, Rotorua Daily Post, Hawke's Bay Today, Whanganui Chronicle, NZME's community papers - and Newstalk ZB.
Over the next few weeks and months, we'll bring you all you need to know about why vaccination protects against Covid, how to get vaccinated and how to help friends and whānau understand why they should do the same.
By the time you read this, more than three million New Zealanders will have had their first of the two recommended Pfizer shots. Close to 2 million have had both.
Here in Northland, as of yesterday, 55,554 people have received both doses, and 97,969 people have received their first dose.
As Ngāti Kuri Trust Board chairman Harry Burkhardt says: "The data is telling us we need to be 90 per cent to keep our communities safe and not put our health system under pressure."
Northland DHB chief executive Dr Nick Chamberlain is of a similar mind: "The big concern of Covid-19 is its 'massive impact' on the health system, effectively shutting it down."
Overseas experience shows the higher ratio of vaccination in a population when restrictions are lifted, the better the results: fewer seriously ill and burdening health services; fewer symptomatic and potentially spreading to vulnerable people; and fewer deaths.
Many will have read about the consequences of the UK easing restrictions with 64 per cent of the population vaccinated.
So, come on Northland, we can do this - let's help our friends and whānau get vaccinated so we can open up our country, avoid lockdowns and save lives.