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The call to arms: Should I get vaccinated? Where do I start? Your questions answered

Multimedia reporter, NZ Herald

New Zealand needs to get vaccinated now to beat Delta - and that's why NZME is launching The 90% Project.
A very high vaccination rate is vital for us to make our population safe from serious disease, keep our hospitals running and gradually allow our economy and border to open up to the world again.
Everyone in Aotearoa over the age of 12 is eligible for free vaccination.
If you haven't had a vaccination yet and don't know where to start, you're not alone. Here's everything you need to know.

Why should I get vaccinated?

For 15-year-old Ishrana Mohammed, getting both of her jabs was a breeze.

The Aorere College student was one of the first Kiwis under 16 to get a vaccine during the first day of Auckland's drive-through vaccination centre near the airport on August 22.

Ishrana Mohammed was one of the first Kiwis under 16 to get the jab in late August. Photo / Adam Pearse
Ishrana Mohammed was one of the first Kiwis under 16 to get the jab in late August. Photo / Adam Pearse

She has since had her second jab at the Airport Oaks vaccination centre in South Auckland.

"It was alright, it didn't hurt as much but my arm was a little sore on the second day," she said.

So far, 264,320 people between 12-19 years old were partially vaccinated, a further 27,995 were fully vaccinated.

Having heard rumours the second jab would hurt more than the first, Mohammed was grateful for the vaccinator who helped settle her nerves.

"They were really friendly, I was pretty scared about the second one but [the vaccinator] calmed me down."

Mohammed was now the first in her class to be fully vaccinated, noting that a lot of her friends had received one jab and were excited to get their second.

She said she preferred the drive-through method of vaccination, but acknowledged that in both instances, she wasn't waiting long.

Māori Warden Lindon Abraham Marsh has been stationed at testing and vaccination centres in Auckland since the outbreak began.

Māori Warden Lindon Abraham Marsh is stationed at a West Auckland vaccination centre. Photo / Michael Craig
Māori Warden Lindon Abraham Marsh is stationed at a West Auckland vaccination centre. Photo / Michael Craig

After the chaos at testing queues, Marsh said most people had been overjoyed to get their jab.

"It's been awesome," he said.

"A lot of [people] were actually real keen to come in, I've never seen people so happy."

Marsh, working at Te Whānau o Waipareira's vaccination centre at The Trusts Arena, said some had been nervous - wary of catching the virus or were dreading the needle.

However, the 28-year-old was grateful for those who had summoned the courage to get their vaccination.

"Thank you for coming, thank you for saving New Zealand."

West Auckland resident Peter Donnelly has been open about his criticisms of the vaccine rollout.

Peter Donnelly, right, with his 75-year-old brother Michael. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Peter Donnelly, right, with his 75-year-old brother Michael. Photo / Brett Phibbs

He spoke to the Herald about his struggle to get his 75-year-old, rest home-bound brother with Parkinson's disease vaccinated, and how issues with the booking process would be difficult for older people to navigate.

However, Donnelly - now double vaccinated - acknowledged how helpful vaccinators had been to him and his brother.

"When you actually got through the door, they did it very well," he said.

"Frankly, you couldn't really fault what they were doing inside."

Age Concern chief executive Stephanie Clare said there had been excellent uptake from her members, who were more vulnerable to the virus.

Nurses at vaccination centres have received great praise over the duration of the rollout. Photo / George Novak
Nurses at vaccination centres have received great praise over the duration of the rollout. Photo / George Novak

However, to those who still hadn't come forward, Clare said their apprehension was understandable but encouraged them to trust the vaccine.

"It's OK to be a little bit nervous because it is unusual times," she said.

"We don't know what the future holds but one of the trusted systems is vaccination to provide protection, and I know our seniors are very excited to be part of the solution."

Māori and Pasifika populations are among those more at-risk from Covid-19, with a higher likelihood of being hospitalised after catching the virus.

With Māori vaccination rates lagging behind those of Pākehā, Te Whānau o Waipareira chief executive John Tamihere said people should prioritise getting the jab to protect their whānau.

"If you love your whānau and you love your whakapapa, the best advice we have is to get vaccinated."

He cited different vaccination centres across the country which had learned to employ manaakitanga to make sure Māori felt honoured and well looked after during vaccination.

People queue for their vaccination during the first stop of the Shot Bro mobile clinic in Pukekohe. Photo / Sylvie Whinray
People queue for their vaccination during the first stop of the Shot Bro mobile clinic in Pukekohe. Photo / Sylvie Whinray

Pacific health leader Dr Collin Tukuitonga has been an integral figure for many communities, particularly those in South Auckland, which were grappling with the last remaining cases of the current Delta outbreak.

For Pasifika whānau, Tukuitonga said ease of access, offering incentives and being vaccinated by people who could speak their own language were all good techniques to engage communities.

Similar to Tamihere, Tukuitonga said promoting a message of collective protection through vaccination resonated with Pasifika.

"If you say, 'You're not only protecting yourself, you're protecting your whānau, you're protecting your community', that appeals to people."

Auckland Airport have engaged other companies to reward younger people to get a shot. Photo / Dean Purcell
Auckland Airport have engaged other companies to reward younger people to get a shot. Photo / Dean Purcell

Pakuranga Unichem pharmacy co-owner Vicky Chan noted many South Aucklanders who had once been apprehensive of the vaccine had come in to get their jab in the last few weeks.

"We've vaccinated a lot of older people as well ... I think those people may have been sitting on the fence," she said.

"I think that this Delta outbreak has given them time to process everything and have a think."

She also said more pregnant women had arrived for their vaccination in recent times.

"I think there's more evidence coming through that says it should be relatively safe."

Last week, the Herald reported the how pregnant women had a higher risk of becoming severely ill and dying after contracting Covid, compared to those who weren't pregnant - indicating the importance of vaccination.

Pharmacist Vicky Chan has a team of very diverse vaccinators alongside her. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Pharmacist Vicky Chan has a team of very diverse vaccinators alongside her. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Chan, whose pharmacy was one of the first to administer vaccinations, has one of the most diverse teams of vaccinators, with fluent speakers in more than half a dozen languages.

This had encouraged a number of migrants to come to Chan's pharmacy for their vaccinations.

"Some [migrants] have never engaged with doctors. Every single one, we're just telling them, 'Just walk in and come'."

Last month, the Herald reported concerns from the disabled community about being forgotten in the national rollout.

However, more vaccination centres targeting disabled people were being on-boarded, giving hope for those yet to get the jab.

An early example was an autism-specific Covid vaccination clinic in Wellington, which provides a low sensory environment for people to be vaccinated.

Autism New Zealand chief executive Dane Dougan said across four days, the site had vaccinated almost 250 people - ahead of its daily 50-person target.

He referenced one young man who had historically never been able to handle a needle without sedation. However, thanks to the clinic's bespoke environment, he was able to take his jab well.

"It's those type of stories which show it's not a cookie-cutter solution, it's whatever works for the person," Dougan said.

Discussions were underway in Auckland and Christchurch to replicate the Wellington clinic.

Disabled Persons Assembly chief executive Prudence Walker is another who hasn't been afraid to criticise the rollout to her community.

Disabled Persons Assembly chief executive Prudence Walker. Photo / Supplied
Disabled Persons Assembly chief executive Prudence Walker. Photo / Supplied

Based in Christchurch, Walker said the most important thing for disabled people concerned about their vaccination was to speak to friends and their trusted medical professionals.

"If you have any medical concerns, reach out to your community to hear other people's experiences.

"Often the best we can do is hear from others and support each other".

The Ministry of Health reinforced Walker's advice to seek out trusted sources for those who were wary.

"It is understandable and very normal to have questions about vaccination.

"Talk to people who you know you can trust and who can provide current, reliable information – particularly health professionals you deal with regularly, such as your GP or local pharmacist.

"People can also call the Covid-19 health line any time on 0800 358 5453, for free advice and support from a trained healthcare professional."

How can I book my vaccine?

Online: Book My Vaccine website (bookmyvaccine.covid19.health.nz)

It takes just five minutes to complete a booking through the national Book My Vaccine system and can be done in either Te Reo Māori or English. You can book an appointment for yourself or on behalf of someone else.

You may have been given an access code to use while booking your vaccination. If so, you can enter this code at the start of the booking process.

You don't need to have your National Health Index (NHI) number, it will ask you a series of basic questions which will help them find your information. However, if you do know your NHI number, you can provide it.

You are also able to choose whether you are emailed or texted confirmation and reminders of your appointment

Before booking, it's worth checking out the Availability Map, which shows how quickly you might be able to get a vaccine at centres close to you.

These include drive-through vaccination centres, GPs, pharmacies, medical centres and much more.

You can find more vaccination locations at karawhiua.nz/where-to-get-vaccinated and healthpoint.co.nz/covid-19-vaccination

The drive-through vaccination centres were very successful when they first opened. Photo / Brett Phibbs
The drive-through vaccination centres were very successful when they first opened. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Thirty-nine translations of how to book a vaccination are available by searching 'COVID-19: How to book your vaccination' online and selecting the 'translated information' link.

Phone: Healthline

You can also book through Healthline on 0800 28 29 26 between 8am and 8pm every day. Translators are available if necessary.

If you can, have your NHI number handy to make the booking process quicker (your NHI number can be found on a prescription, x-ray, test result or hospital letter).

Where to get vaccinated - without a booking

Community vaccination and drive-through centres in Auckland

Bookings are not necessary at any community vaccination centres or drive-through centres. People are encouraged to walk in or drive up with their whānau at any time during opening hours.

• Albany Vaccination Centre. End of Oaklands Road, Albany. Mon-Sun: 8am - 3pm

• Birkenhead Vaccination Centre Highbury Shopping Centre, Corner of Highbury Bypass and Birkenhead Avenue Mon/Wed/Fri/Sat/Sun: 8am - 3pm. Tues/Thurs 8am-8pm

• North Shore Airport Drive Through Vaccination Centre. 272 Postman Road, Dairy Flat. Wed - Sun: 8.30am - 3.15pm

• Henderson Vaccination Centre. 28 Catherine Street, Henderson. Mon-Fri: 8am - 4pm, Sat: 9am - 3pm

• The Trusts Arena Vaccination Centre. 65-67 Central Park Drive, Henderson, Auckland. Open Mon - Sun: 8.30am - 3.30pm

• Westgate Vaccination Centre. 7-11 Westgate Drive. Mon-Sun: 8.30am - 3.30pm

• Auckland CBD Vaccination Centre. 35 Graham Street, Auckland CBD. Mon - Fri: 7.30am - 6pm, Sat - Sun: 8am - 6pm

• Epsom Vaccination Centre. 382 Manukau Road, Epsom. Mon - Sun: 8am - 3pm

• Mt Wellington Vaccination Centre. 95 -105 Leonard Road, Mount Wellington. Mon – Fri 8am-7pm Sat-Sun: 8.30am - 3pm

• Tāmaki (Glen Innes) Vaccination Centre. 261 Morrin Road, St Johns. Mon-Fri: 8am – 3.30pm. Sat - Sun: open for whānau appointments by invitation only. 8am - 3pm

• Highbrook Vaccination Centre. 31 Highbrook Drive, East Tāmaki. Mon - Sun: 8am - 3pm

• Airport Park and Ride Drive Through Vaccination Centre. Auckland Airport Park and Ride, on Verissimo Drive near the airport. Mon - Sun: 8.30am - 3.30pm

• Manurewa Vaccination Centre. 81 Finlayson Ave, Clendon Park, Manukau. Mon-Sat: 9am- 3pm

• Ōtara Vaccination Centre. 5 Ōtara Road, Ōtara. Mon-Sun: 8am - 3.30pm

• Papakura Marae Vaccination Centre. 29 Hunua Road, Papakura. Mon - Sun: 8.30am - 3pm

• Pukekohe Vaccination Centre. 6 Roulston Street, Pukekohe. Mon - Fri: 8.30am - 4pm, Sat: 8.30am - 11am

• Takanini Vaccination Centre. 8 Great South Road, Takanini. Mon - Sun: 8.30am - 3pm

What if I can't leave the house to get vaccinated?

If anyone needs a home vaccination it is best to either call their primary healthcare care provider or call the Covid-19 vaccination helpline - 0800 28 29 26 - to discuss options available.

The helpline will also be able to connect you with someone at the local District Health Board to discuss and confirm details of a home visit.

Manurewa Marae in South Auckland has been widely touted as a great location to get a vaccination. Photo / Alex Burton
Manurewa Marae in South Auckland has been widely touted as a great location to get a vaccination. Photo / Alex Burton

Can I book the whole whānau at the same time?

You can book your whānau through Healthline (0800 28 29 26). Unfortunately, the booking system only allows you to book one at a time. If you want bookings for every family member, look on Book My Vaccine for a vaccination centre which isn't busy and see if you can book the appointments one after the other.

However, all community vaccination centres are encouraging people to bring their whānau along to get vaccinated without bookings, so securing multiple appointments may not be necessary.

How can I change or cancel my booking?

For this, you will need your booking reference and the contact information used in your initial booking.

To change: Select 'reschedule' and confirm the location for your appointment and choose a new date and time.

To cancel: Enter your email address or phone number and booking reference. Select 'cancel booking'.

Do I have to have a booking to get the jab?

A booking is encouraged but it is not essential. All community vaccination centres are now encouraging walk-ins.

Contacting sites like pharmacies and GPs before you arrive is a good idea as they will be able to indicate whether a booking is necessary based on their demand for that day. As a general rule, there is often more capacity for walk-ins at the end of the day if there are vaccines spare.

Is the vaccine safe?

The Pfizer vaccine is one of the "best studied vaccines" we have in the fight against Covid-19, according to a Kiwi clinical microbiologist and immunologist.

University of Otago associate professor James Ussher says with nigh on 50,000 people included in clinical trials and a clear understanding of its side-effects, the vaccine's safety was assured.

"I think now we have such excellent data that I think people should be reassured about their safety."

Almost 4.5 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been administered in New Zealand, a drop in the bucket compared to the hundreds of millions more across the globe.

According to Medsafe - New Zealand's medicines and medical devices safety authority - 12,900 reports of adverse reactions after the jab have been received as at August 28.

However, only 509 were treated as serious. The three most frequently reported reactions post-jab were headache (4115), dizziness (3828) and injection site pain (3122).

Of the 40 reports of vaccine-related deaths, only one has been determined as likely to be vaccine-induced with a further 15 under investigation.

Ussher said considering the number of doses administered, these numbers were not high or of concern - but he reinforced the need to investigate any such reports.

The Covid-19 Pfizer vaccine. Photo / Supplied
The Covid-19 Pfizer vaccine. Photo / Supplied

Acknowledging the recent death caused by myocarditis being linked to the virus, Ussher said there had been no signal in international data which suggested increased rates of mortality.

"Even the one very unfortunate death here is an extremely rare occurrence."

The risk of myocarditis - heart wall inflammation - was at least five times more likely in people who were infected with the virus than those who had received a vaccine.

He cited figures from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which said no death had been causally linked to the Pfizer vaccine from the 217 million doses administered in the United States.

Where to find more information:

How the vaccine works

Medsafe Pfizer vaccine consumer medicine information

Vaccine effectiveness and protection

Vaccine information for disabled people including a supported decision-making tool

Vaccine health advice and information for specific situations, including pregnancy, underlying health conditions and other circumstances

Details on Medsafe approval of the Pfizer vaccine

Research summary about catching and passing on COVID-19

People in our communities talking about the vaccine