By Robin Martin of RNZ.
Thousands of people are expected to turn up to New Zealand's first rural mass Covid-19 vaccination event at Stratford today and tomorrow.
The Taranaki District Health Board is hoping to give a first Pfizer shot to 6000 people - a number that will help drag the province off the bottom of the vaccination league table.
RNZ number crunching of Ministry of Health data late last month showed only 3.1 per cent of Taranaki people in group three had had two Pfizer shots - the lowest percentage in the country.
Nationally, the figure was 12.2 per cent and in neighbouring Whanganui it was 15.1 percent.
Operations manager for the vaccination rollout in Taranaki, Rachel Court, said the slow rollout in Taranaki was a legacy of a conservative target it gave the health ministry.
She said it aimed to vaccinate 7 per cent of the region's population, or 8829 people, by the end of June - the lowest target in the country.
"Our rates of vaccinations increased which was great. It accelerated, but we were unable to sustain it due to the restrictions from the Ministry of Health which held us to our original target and that was due to vaccination supply concerns. So, we had the best of intentions but that's all fine."
Court said the vaccination programme was now firing on all cylinders.
She said there would be 16 vaccination booths at the Stratford War Memorial Centre and the DHB is aiming to deliver about 200 shots every hour.
"Our Friday clinic is already full, which is fantastic, and there is still a few appointment slots available for the Saturday clinic. We've had a great response from the community so far."
Stratford council asked the DHB to help with vaccinations because it was worried rural GPs would not cope.
Deputy Mayor Alan Jamieson said it was rapt with the response and he would be lining up for an injection.
"I dare say, there should be a fair bit of response. Most people I've spoken too are very positive about it. Let's get vaccinated and try and get us back to a new normal, you know. I'm heading in tomorrow morning so we'll see want happens."
General manager of South Taranaki Māori health provider Ngāti Ruanui Tahua, Graham Young, said it - along with other Māori health providers Tui Ora and Ngāruahine Health Services - had been liaising with the DHB.
"We have encouraged them to directly contact locals, particularly the local marae Whakaahurangi to ensure they are engaged and able to channel people through the marae to the vaccination event itself."
Young said Ngāti Ruanui Tahua has booked 40 to 50 of its own clients for a vaccination.
Whangamōmona Hotel co-owner Vicky Pratt reckoned few locals were planning to head in from the remote east of the district.
"I haven't heard a word about vaccinations in the pub in the last week, so I don't think so. The odd one might have picked it up in the paper and is going in, but it's an hour's drive each way to pop in I suppose for a three minute fix."
Pratt said it was a busy time of year for farmers with the beginning of the lambing and calving season almost upon them.
The good news was that the DHB was aware of this and was planning to bring a mobile vaccination clinic to Whangamōmona.
Another mass vaccination clinic will be held in Stratford on Friday 20 August and 21 Saturday.