The Editor's view
It all happened in the blink of an eye.
I was sitting on a white plastic chair at Tauranga's First Ave vaccination centre waiting for the friendly nurse wearing a mask to give me my Covid-19 jab when it was all done, just like that.
I never saw it coming, hardly felt a thing, waited 15 minutes, and was out the door, with nothing more than a very slight burning sensation at the top of my left arm.
Getting this first jab, last Tuesday morning, made me feel like I was not just protecting myself and my whānau but also playing my part in the team of 5 million as we, as a country, pivot and look ahead at how we manage Covid - a tricky virus that will be around for a long time to come.
Last year, for a time, we were the envy of the world. We had eliminated the virus in the community and despite a few setbacks enjoyed unlimited domestic freedom and Covid-free communities.
Life seemed much better here than anywhere else. But it was too good to last.
As other countries, including Australia, experienced the highs and lows of trying to contain Covid, it finally happened to us - the feared Delta variant breached fortress NZ, plunging everyone into level 4 lockdown again.
Delta is highly transmissible, is now the dominant strain and has shifted the goalposts.
Extended lockdowns, such as the one Auckland is still enduring while the rest of us are in level 2, cannot and must not be the long-term answer in how we deal with Covid.
The economic cost, not to mention the toll on people's lives, livelihoods and mental health, will be too great.
Repeated high-level lockdowns will eventually break us.
So, the backbone of the strategy moving forwards has to be vaccination - and that is why NZME's stable of media titles, including the Bay of Plenty Times, Rotorua Daily Post and group national flagship NZ Herald, has just launched a major editorial campaign aimed at getting 90 per cent of eligible New Zealanders vaccinated.
It's a big, aspirational number but it's one we know is crucial to reach.
As recently as Thursday, top expert Professor Michael Plank, who is working with the Ministry of Health, warned we need to get over 90 per cent jabbed or risk tens of thousands of hospitalisations and thousands of deaths if a large-scale outbreak should occur after borders open and restrictions lift.
Plank believes the threat will be much smaller if we can get more than 90 per cent.
So, we will use our influence and ability to reach and connect with New Zealanders to push the message, encouraging everyone to play their part and organise their jabs.
We will shine a light on vaccinations, people's stories and those doing their part for the cause.
New regional vaccination figures published in our campaign coverage today show that we still have a lot of work to do with thousands of people still not vaccinated.
I believe Covid will eventually spread throughout Aotearoa. This week's case of the truck driver who visited Tauranga while possibly infectious has shown how it could happen even with restrictions in place.
I am realistic and expect to most likely catch it at some stage. But if I do, I want my body to have the best possible defences available so, hopefully, I am either asymptomatic or catch a mild version.
But the alternative, in my view, is rolling the dice with Covid. We know Covid-19 is extremely unpredictable in terms of its symptoms.
Some people hardly know they have it but some become extremely ill, even ending up on ventilators and fighting for their lives.
Worldwide, 4.55 million people have died as a result of this virus.
I don't want to join them.
I choose to listen to the experts and read the official government websites. I trust them and urge others to do the same.
Last year, as we plunged into the first lockdown, I wrote to our readers about the challenges we faced then and said: Together, we can do this.
And we did, we pulled through.
Well, we can again. It's time to pull together as a community and as a nation and get ourselves in the strongest position we can to live with and manage this virus.
Now's the time to support this campaign and get 90 per cent of eligible New Zealanders vaccinated.
If you haven't already, please get vaccinated for yourselves, your whānau and for the team of 5 million - and encourage others to do the same.