Closing our vaccination gap

Published on 21 October 2021


Last Saturday, the nation stepped up and got vaccinated in record numbers. Around the country community groups, sporting organisations and local leaders rallied with District Health Boards to get Kiwis immunised against COVID-19. Their efforts paid off with the 100,000-jab target quickly surpassed before reaching a total of 130,002 vaccinations by the end of the day. Of those, 39,025 were first doses and 90,977 second doses. Māori stepped up in record numbers with 10,941 first doses and 10,874 second doses administered. Pacific communities also clocked up 4,223 first doses and 8,093 second doses. Here in Northland, 5,115 people, or 3.2 of the region’s population, got immunised. Over 85 per cent of New Zealand’s eligible population have received one vaccination and 65 per cent are fully immunised. This is a great result, but we still have work to do to reach our 90 per cent double dose target.

Like elsewhere in the country, vaccination rates in the Far North are uneven with some communities lagging behind others. There will be a range of reasons for this, but I know one factor will be how remote some of our communities are. Many of our residents live a long way from vaccination centres and a long way from places where Delta is spreading within the community. Unfortunately, experience here and overseas shows that those most vulnerable to Delta are unvaccinated. This group accounts for almost all of those now being hospitalised.

Community groups and health providers across our district are working hard to get everyone immunised, especially those in our remote communities. One example is Māori health provider, Whakawhiti Ora Pai, which is taking vaccinations to the people by running clinics at marae and community halls the length of Aupouri Peninsula. This approach works. The number of North Cape residents who have received their first vaccination now exceeds the national average.

We are all now familiar with the term vaccine hesitancy. One thing Super Saturday demonstrated is how effective the example of others can be. If you know someone with doubts about the vaccine, please encourage them to talk to someone they trust. Maybe that will be you or maybe a family member, friend, community leader or their doctor. Hundreds of millions of COVID vaccines have now been administered around the world. It is safe and effective.

We have been extremely lucky in the Far North. Despite some close calls, COVID-19 has not spread in our communities. Now we are now back at Alert Level 2, we can again enjoy greater freedoms and the opportunity to get our lives and economy back on track. Half of Northlanders are now fully vaccinated, and most of us have had one Pfizer shot. To ensure these gains are not squandered, we must continue vaccination efforts and reach the nation’s 90 per cent vaccination goal. Please do all you can to ensure those around you get their shot soon so we can all stay safe. That is the only way we can all get our lives back on track.