Covid-19 vaccine rush: Whangārei mayor urges vaccinators to 'come north'

Northland needs more vaccinators to get on top of the huge demand for the Covid-19 vaccine, Whangārei mayor Sheryl Mai says.

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Northland rollout leader Te Ropu Poa says there are several reasons for the delays. Source: Breakfast

Northlanders are waiting on the phone for hours as they try to book appointments for their Covid-19 vaccine - while older people are being turned away as they attempt walk-in appointments.

People have told RNZ they have rung the booking line up to 30 times over a few hours and been unable to get through.

Te Tai Tokerau opened up its vaccine eligibility to include anyone over 50 last week to try to get more people across the line.

It was the worst performing of all the DHBs in Covid-19 vaccination figures out last week, almost 4000 doses short of its target.

But the change in eligibility has caused huge pressure on booking systems and frustration that those with high-risk factors are not being seen.

It is the only DHB in the country that had opened up vaccinations to over-50s.

Mai told First Up responses she has heard since vaccination started range from people finding it so easy that they were thrilled to those who have been "incredibly frustrated".

"Really the system was just overwhelmed by the number of people wanting to get their vaccine."

Mixed messages have been occurring in rural and urban settings and there seemed to be so much demand that the system had not been ready to handle it, she said.

She did not know why Northland got off to such a slow start in its vaccination campaign.

"But I do know that boy, all stops have been pulled out right now. They are doing many, many vaccine shots all through the day.

"The critical thing actually is we need more resources - we need more nurses, more vaccinators so if anybody has those skills, come north, we need you."

Mai said she was confident that the DHB was in the process of increasing staffing for its call centres and answering emails more swiftly.

Mai said she had not been vaccinated yet, because she did not believe she was in an under-risk category.

However, she sympathised with people who are immuno-compromised or elderly or those who were anxious. "They really deserve to be at the front of the queue."

She said a busload of Aucklanders who headed north in hopes of being vaccinated had been turned away.