After her planned visit to vaccination clinics in Whanganui and Hunterville had to be reorganised because of protest activity, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke to reporter Ethan Griffiths about how the region stood on the vaccination front.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says that while there is work to be done to boost Whanganui's vaccination rate, she's confident the region will hit the all-important mark of 90 per cent.
In an interview with the Chronicle during her visit to Whanganui on Wednesday, Ardern said that she had met with the Whanganui DHB and felt a sense of urgency when it came to the rollout.
"I see the same focus and determination in the DHB here as I have seen in other DHBs.
"They're working both on their preparedness plans, but making sure they are gearing up the vaccination plan."
Ardern said as it sits currently, the focus of the rollout was on those either hesitant, or in a position where they have so far been unable to access a clinic, for whatever reason that may be.
"We've now reached a point where those who were going to reach out and be vaccinated mostly have done so. Now, it's about actually going out and having those proactive and intensive conversations.
"It's much more resource intensive, and that's where we are now."
Currently, Whanganui DHB has the third-lowest percentage of its population fully vaccinated of all 20 DHBs, with 69 per cent of people fully vaccinated.
Ardern has said the country will move to the government's new traffic light system only once every DHB in the country has reached 90 per cent.
Last week, Associate Health Minister Peeni Henare told the Chronicle in an interview government modelling suggested the region wouldn't hit 90 per cent fully vaccinated until mid-January.
Ardern didn't confirm that on Wednesday, but accepted there was different modelling suggesting different timings.
"I've seen that the DHB has put it at December, so there have been different predictions around when we'll be at 90 per cent.
"It's hard to say definitively when DHBs will hit that mark, but what I think we can say is that it's possible. As of November 2, Whanganui is roughly 5000 first doses shy of hitting 90 per cent."
Ardern said the government has promised to review that plan at the end of November, and consider when a shift could be possible depending on how vaccination rates were sitting then.
"We've put a check-in day against this work, and we will have the chance at the end of November to see how this is tracking across the country."
When it came to the rollout more broadly, the Prime Minister accepted that Whanganui DHB covered a larger geographical area than some other DHBs, which meant that there would be some degree of variation in vaccination levels.
For example, the Ruapehu District, which predominantly falls within the Whanganui DHB region, has just 58.2 per cent of its population fully vaccinated - the second-lowest of any district in the country.
"It is fair to say that we have huge diversity in our DHBs, and some areas will be more challenging," Ardern said.
"Just yesterday, you might've seen that with the Māori community Covid fund, $2.8 million is going into funding for iwi that cover Southern Taranaki, Rangitīkei and Ruapehu districts."
That money would go towards collecting data around Māori vaccination rates, mobile outreach, vaccination incentives, events, communication and community engagement to overcome misinformation, she said.
"As I've said, now we're getting down to seeing where we have harder to reach communities, we're specifically going in quickly to fund extra initiatives to try and reach the harder to reach people."