Ensuring jabs are available at all times, offering incentives such as grocery vouchers and making sure people know what they can't do if they don't have a vaccination pass are key to finding Northland's missing 3300, a health leader says.
While the country celebrated reaching 90 per cent fully vaccinated this week, as of yesterday Northland was still 3366 jabs short of even the first-dose target.
Now health workers are making a final pre-Christmas push to lift vaccination rates and free the region from the red traffic light setting.
At 11.59pm on December 30 all of New Zealand, except Northland, will shift to orange.
Geoff Milner, chief executive of Ngāti Hine Health Trust, was hopeful the region could reach the 90 per cent target.
Publicity about Northland's low vax rate had overshadowed rapid progress, including a halving in the number of unvaccinated Māori in the past five weeks.
"We tend to focus on who's still to go but that's an incredible turnaround," he said.
Since Monday the number of first jabs still required had dropped from 4115 to 3366.
A key factor in the turnaround was Northlanders' realisation of what they'd miss out on if they didn't have a vaccine certificate under the new traffic light system, Milner said.
In the red and orange settings, cafes, restaurants, bars, concerts, gyms and close-contact businesses such as hairdressers were off-limits without a vaccine pass.
Milner said that message needed to be reinforced.
"I think the traffic light system has been a huge influence in people coming forward. We've seen lots of people come in saying, 'I didn't know I couldn't do those things if I didn't have a vaccine passport'."
Another key to reaching 90 per cent was making sure vaccinators were available, despite increasing fatigue, right through to Christmas.
"On any day a member of that long tail in Northland can say, 'Today is my day, I need to come in and get vaccinated'. But if our doors are closed we're going to miss that opportunity."
While it was frustrating that some people were waiting for incentives before getting jabbed, Milner said health providers needed to better communicate what was being offered.
Supermarket vouchers, which were especially useful at this time of year, were the standard incentive, but many people didn't know they were eligible for a Northland District Health Board grand prize no matter where they got their jab.
More than 200 prizes were given away on Wednesday, including two Rarotonga holiday packages worth $6000, with a Renault Duster car to be given away once Northland hits 90 per cent.
Milner hoped the Government would revisit its decision to keep Northland in red before January 17.
"We just need to keep doing what we're doing and, yes, we're running late but I think we're going to get there."
Among Māori the biggest group which had yet to be vaccinated was rangatahi (youth).
Māori health providers, the health board, pharmacies and GPs had to work together to find ways of drawing them into the vaccination programme.
It was a mistake to not prioritise young people from the start of the rollout, Milner said.
"That allowed them time to sit on devices where misinformation could grow and fester."
Schools had also been reluctant to allow vaccinators on site because their boards feared it was a political hot potato.
"Ngāti Hine hasn't been into one school in Whangārei or the Mid North because we were declined, but that's where the young people are five days a week. I don't think that's helped either."
The country's northernmost iwi, Ngāti Kuri, is among those working hard to encourage rangatahi.
The iwi launched a campaign this week called #HīkoiTo100 which includes live social media sessions with doctors and other reliable sources, merchandise, TikTok challenges and information on iwi channels, culminating in an outdoor music festival.
Ngāti Kuri Trust Board strategic lead Sheridan Waitai said support, good information and avoiding judgment were key to convincing people to get jabbed.
''There's so much information out there it can be really hard in the digital world to decipher what's truth. We'll allow them to get there at their own pace.''
The location and lineup of the festival had yet to be confirmed but it would be somewhere between Awanui and Te Paki, an area where young people had few opportunities to experience big musical events.
Admission would be free but festival-goers would have to be double-vaxxed.
Waitai said Spanish flu, TB and polio had all hit Ngāti Kuri hard.
"We are doing everything we can to make sure that doesn't happen again," Waitai said.
The campaign's goal was to have 100 per cent of eligible iwi members fully vaccinated by the end of summer.
Whangārei-based MP Shane Reti, National's health spokesman, said hitting 90 per cent in Northland would be challenging.
Across the region 11 per cent of children had been taken off the National Immunisation Register because their parents opposed vaccination. For non-Māori the figure was even higher at 15 per cent.
That, combined with the country's second-biggest Super Saturday protests taking place in Whangārei, pointed to ''really entrenched pockets'' of the Northland population who were unlikely to ever get vaccinated.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins, however, said he believed Northland would reach 90 per cent.
''I want to recognise the huge amount of work that's gone on right across Northland around the rollout, particularly over the last six weeks. Back in early November, when we were particularly concerned about cases being identified in Northland, the rates were certainly lower at around 64 per cent," Hipkins said.
"As of Friday that's lifted to 88 per cent for first doses, and we know that once we get those first doses in, people then follow through for their second.''
The fully vaccinated rate for Northland is currently 82 per cent.
In November Auckland-based Te Whānau o Waipareira sent 70 staff and four mobile clinics to Northland to help with the vaccination drive.
Chief operating officer Awerangi Tamihere said the organisation would "absolutely" be keen to return, but only at the invitation of Northland iwi providers.
It would also take some time to plan and organise, especially now that tired staff had been given a five-week break to the end of January.
If they did return it would likely be to the main population centres such as Whangārei, Kaikohe and Kaitaia.
By then the organisation would have Health Ministry data pinpointing the locations of unvaccinated people.
After a long legal battle Te Whānau o Waipareira now had data for Auckland and knew exactly which streets to target instead of just guessing, she said.
They were still waiting for the Northland data.