By Rowan Quinn of RNZ
Suspected anti-vaxxers have been making bogus Covid-19 vaccination bookings in one of the least protected areas of the country.
Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners president Sam Murton said there had been a spate of fake bookings in Tairāwhiti over the past few days, including in the lead-up to Super Saturday.
One vaccination centre had 90 bookings in just a couple of days, a huge blow to a small clinic, she said.
That means the Pfizer doses, which spoiled easily, would go to waste and people who had made a decision to get immunised may struggle to get a booking.
For some in the largely rural area, the days where they could come into town were limited.
"To the people who are trying to book in it just looks like, 'oh this is hopeless'. And how many times do you try when the bookings are full up all the time?" she said.
Tairāwhiti already had some of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, with 74 per cent of people having had at least one dose of the vaccine, well below the national average.
The rate was 63 per cent for Māori and local health teams had crowdfunded this week for a vaccine bus to be able to reach more people.
Dr Murton said anti-vaxxers were entitled to their own view but had no right to take away other people's choice to get vaccinated.
"That's really devastating in areas where there are vulnerable people, and where there is a whole lot of effort put in to try to get people to get vaccinated," she said.
She said before Super Saturday there were quite a few bookings made with fake names and numbers, including on the national booking service.
Ministry of Health group manager of bookings Astrid Koorneef said the fake bookings were extremely irresponsible and disappointing.
They were relatively rare in the national booking system but each one was investigated, she said.
Dr Murton said she would like the police to consider investigating.