A major national campaign aimed at getting 90% of eligible New Zealanders vaccinated by Christmas has been launched by NZME media titles - including the Rotorua Daily Post and The New Zealand Herald.
The campaign, titled The 90% Project, is being rolled out across the country, including the Rotorua district, to encourage New Zealanders to get the jab, along with information on how to get vaccinated and ways to encourage others to join.
The 90% Project is being led by the NZ Herald, Rotorua Daily Post, Bay of Plenty Times, Newstalk ZB, Northern Advocate, Hawke's Bay Today, Whanganui Chronicle and NZME's community papers, including the Rotorua Weekender.
It comes as two new locations of interest have been identified in Tauranga after a supermarket truck driver, who tested positive for Covid-19, drove from Auckland to the Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions.
It also comes as the latest vaccination figures from the Lakes District Health Board show that 58,308 people had received their first dose, and 35,893 had received both as of September 16.
Lakes District Health Board chief operating officer Alan Wilson said nearly 85,000 people would need to be vaccinated to have 90 per cent of eligible people in the Lakes district fully vaccinated.
As of September 16, Wilson said 26,669 first doses and 49,084 second doses would need to be administered to reach this 90 per cent target.
The campaign was launched a day after University of Canterbury modeller Professor Michael Plank was reported as saying that reaching a 90 per cent vaccination target was important to save lives and for the capacity of hospitals.
''The modelling shows that if vaccination rates are in the 70s or low 80s in the eligible population, a large-scale outbreak could still threaten our health service capacity and lead to tens of thousands of hospitalisations and thousands of deaths.
''If we can get into the 90s, the threat will be much smaller and could be limited to a more manageable number of hospitalisations with some additional public health measures."
Over the next few weeks and months, the Rotorua Daily Post will bring you all you need to know about why vaccination protects against Covid, how to get vaccinated yourself and how to help friends and whānau understand why they should do the same.
We'll have interviews with political and community leaders, and local people who are getting jabbed.
A big focus will be to ensure that under-represented communities, including young people, Māori and Pasifika, get the same high rates of protection as all New Zealanders.
NZME Bay of Plenty regional editor Scott Inglis said the campaign was vital for the region and the rest of New Zealand.
''It is now very clear that vaccinations are critical for New Zealand to move forward so we can manage this tricky and dangerous virus. That's why the Rotorua Daily Post and our sister newsrooms are right behind this,'' he said.
''We will use every platform and channel available to get this message out and keep it in the public eye. We need people getting their jabs and encouraging others to do the same.''
Lakes District Health Board chief executive Nick Saville-Wood applauded The 90% Project.
Saville-Wood encouraged everyone to consider the benefits of having the Pfizer vaccine.
There had been significant support of the efforts so far to get people vaccinated, and this has included drive-throughs, marae-based clinics, mobile clinics in rural areas and the two immunisation hubs at Rotorua and Taupo, he said.
"We welcome suggestions around our services to deliver the vaccine and what else we can do to have the vaccine service meet the needs of our population."
He said it was clear that being vaccinated would help people keep their loved ones out of hospital.
"And if you get a double dose of the vaccine, you are far less likely to get seriously sick and pass the virus on to others."
Three Lakes Clinic GP Dr Cate Mills said the general feedback she had received from patients was positive.
"I think the DHB and the ministry are doing an amazing job. All the feedback I've had from people who've gone to get their vaccine has been complimentary."
Mills said patients she had spoken to found the vaccine booking system accessible.
"People going for their vaccine appointments said the process flowed really well and their experience has been excellent."
Mills' advice to those who hadn't had a chance to book their vaccine yet or might be sitting on the fence was to speak with a health care professional.
"Go and talk to your doctor about it. It can be difficult to interpret all the information that's out there. It's important for people to have informed consent."
Mills said she was happy to sit down and discuss the vaccine with her patients.
"It is important for people to get vaccinated for us to regain our freedoms. This is the only way for us to live with the virus, which is going to happen."
Te Runanga o Ngati Pikiao GP Dr Grace Malcolm has been heavily involved with the vaccination rollout for Māori.
"What we've seen is everyone who is keen and can get vaccinated have gone," Malcolm said.
"We are working now with the vaccine-hesitant. The important thing there is to inform and reassure people that the vaccine is safe.
"The Covid-19 vaccine has been tested more than any other vaccine we've rolled out."
Malcolm said the vaccine reduced risk. "It stops people from dying, from being unwell and it stops the spread."
Labour MP Tamati Coffey said the vaccination was about getting back to "some kind of connected normality".
Coffey said his son's grandmother was in England, and while she was only a video call away, "actually she's a lifetime away in terms of being there to capture all those milestones and moments".
"I know there's plenty of Kiwis in that situation too that are keen to get vaccinated because ... we want to go and connect again with our friends and whānau.
"Of course it's about keeping safe – that's absolutely the reason we're doing it all. But my extra reason is so that I can travel and the rest of New Zealand can travel too."
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick encouraged everyone who was eligible to get vaccinated to help protect the health of the community and economy.
"This is about keeping everyone safe and it has become apparent with Covid-19 that those who are vaccinated don't get as sick as others," she said.
"We need to trust the science and the advice of our health professionals and given the nature of the Delta variant, now is no time to be complacent."
Rotorua MP Todd McClay said the vaccination was "the only way to keep New Zealanders safe and to stop us from yo-yoing in and out of more lockdowns."
"It's also the only way for people to start putting their lives back together and for us to at some stage start opening up to the world again safely."
Where to get vaccinated
The Rotorua Covid-19 Immunisation Hub is in Central Mall. Anyone eligible can access it. Opening hours are 8.30am to 4.30pm, Tuesday to Saturday.
Book online at bookmyvaccine.nz or call 0800 28 29 26.
Check healthpoint.co.nz for more information.
Te Arawa also runs drive-through vaccination clinics. Find out more about Te Awawa's vaccination services here.