The countdown to the holidays has started as Waikato DHB works full steam ahead to reach the 90 per cent first vaccination target as Friday marks the final day to get vaccinated to be fully protected in time for Christmas.
The vaccination requires three weeks between the first and second dose and two weeks after that to develop full protection. As of Thursday, the Waikato has 2609 vaccinations to go to reach the 90 per cent target of first doses.
Waikato DHB Covid-19 vaccination programme lead Maree Munro is thrilled about the upcoming milestone.
"We are so close, so very close ... it's really exciting."
As of Wednesday, 600,549 doses of the Covid vaccine have been administered, of which 318,170 were first doses and 282,379 second doses. The DHB administered between 4000 and 10,000 doses a day couple of weeks ago but the numbers have now dropped to between 1000 and 2000 doses a day.
Munro says this was expected.
"The adoption curve changed ... when the vaccinations opened up for everyone, the first ones to get it were the ones that were excited about it and wanting to get it. After that came the more compliant people that are used to getting vaccinated, the ones that don't really have questions.
"Then, the people for whom the vaccination was not urgent and not a priority because of different life factors. Now we are down to the remaining few who haven't made up their mind yet, who may have heard stories and got concerns. Those might be unsure who to talk to, who got the right story."
She says the challenge the DHB faces was getting out in the communities to provide information because every person consumes information differently.
"Some people prefer to watch educational videos on Facebook or Instagram, others want a person in front of them that talks to them. So we have been using a range of approaches to try and overcome those challenges, like phone calls, door to door visits, forums and online sessions with iwi.
"In some communities, like Ruapehu, we have recruited some local kaumātua [to educate people] because they respond better to well-known and trusted faces rather than someone from the DHB that is coming from Hamilton."
Munro says that the mobile vaccination clinics which rolled out in October helped reach more people.
"We are not trying to get tens of thousands of people anymore. The mobile clinics helped getting right into the communities, we reached farmers that thought they don't need the jab because Covid wouldn't get to their farms.
"At one site we had 10 farmers coming to get the jab in one day [which shows] our strategy is working and it does make a difference providing a vaccination opportunity closer to [these communities]."
While there are very small numbers left to reach the target of 90 per cent of vaccinations in Waikato, she says we still have a longer way to go to get 90 per cent of the Māori population vaccinated.
"The Māori vaccination rollout was grouped by ages starting with the kaumātua. But the Māori population in Waikato is a very young community which had less time to think about it, so we are now focussing on [them]."
The DHB is working hard with its iwi partners to reach Waikato rangatahi.
"We thought what [tools] are there to get [rangatahi] to come [to the vaccination sites]. So, we did some events like a pizza night in Huntly and a movie night in Ngaruawahia.
"Like that, they can catch up with their friends, watch a movie or eat some pizza and get informed about the vaccine - and get the jab. It's to start a conversation and create a different setting [compared to] the classic vaccination clinic."
Munro is confident of reaching the 90 per cent vaccination target for Māori.
"Our partnership is the strength we have. We are aiming to get the 90 per cent of first vaccinations for Māori somewhere in December."
In regards to incentives like free food and vouchers in exchange for getting the jab, she says that everyone has a different view about them.
"I don't think it's bribery, different groups and communities have different needs."
She says she is encouraging everyone to get the jab.
"[It] is a tool in our toolbox that will reduce the impact of Covid-19. It has been in every newspaper, but I am going to say it again: If you see the vaccination flag and you still have questions, just pop in and ask the staff - there is no pressure to get vaccinated.
"There are people who just are not wanting to get the jab and at the end of the day it's a personal choice. Our focus is on those who are undecided and still have questions."