Thursday, December 9

False reservations hamper Tairāwhiti’s vaccination efforts

More than 1,000 bogus vaccination stocks have hampered efforts to inject people in Tairāwhiti, the region with the lowest Covid-19 vaccination rates.

Walk through the Gisborne vaccination center

A self-service vaccination center in Gisborne.
Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

In the area that includes Gisborne and the East Cape, only 77 percent of people have received their first dose of the vaccine, and only 62 percent have received their second injection.

Both rates are the lowest in the country for a region.

Health authorities have worked hard to increase vaccination rates in Tairāwhiti.

Di Akurangi, a communications advisor for local DHB Hauora Tairāwhiti, said it was a surprise to see an increase of 1,300 bookings recently and then a shock to see that they were all fakes.

“Look, I had to laugh because I was thinking ‘oh god our communications really work here in Tairāwhiti’, on the other hand, I’m thinking ‘oh no, our team now has to go through a process to remove all of that and that is also a process itself that the Ministry of Health really helps with, so it’s definitely a waste of time. “

Some of them approached DHB staff.

He said that to manage the problem, staff closely monitored the reservations as they arrived.

“The administrators of our clinic go through every appointment, because there are a lot of people who do this, it is not this person here or people, there are stupid names that are put into the system and we know it immediately.”

This problem was broader than Tairāwhiti: Wellington’s doctor, Michelle Wilson, had seen similar things.

He said the Book My Vaccine system was easy to manipulate – his office received a reservation with an obvious anti-vax first and last name.

RNZ has decided not to print the name, in an effort to avoid copycat behavior.

“We have an easily accessible vaccination system and everyone can use it, but unfortunately there is no registry for anyone to put in any name,” Wilson said.

He said they had to throw out vaccines for people who didn’t show up, and that was a waste.

“Really, really frustrating that thoughtless things like that are affecting our time and other people’s ability to book.”

Back in Tairāwhiti, Cara-Lee Pewhairangi-Lawton, vaccination leader for Ngāti Porou Hauora, said that despite the successes with the older population, reaching rangatahi remains a challenge.

“That young generation, 19 to 34 years old, that cohort has been difficult and we need to adapt our approaches to suit those age groups.”

He said they were starting focus groups with rangatahi, and he hoped the new TV commercials would help as well.

Di Akurangi from Hauora Tairāwhiti said that he was doing many things to target hard-to-reach people.

He has given away more than a thousand grocery vouchers and goes door to door too.

“We are already doing street by street clinics, we are offering a hamburger, milkshake and a vax, we are offering transportation of people, we are doing educational tours.”

To reach the desired vaccination rate of 90 percent, about 5,400 more Tairāwhiti people need to receive their first and second injections and about 6,000 just need to remember to receive their second dose.

The Health Ministry said a small number of people were falsifying reservations across the country.

Astrid Koornneef, her Covid-19 Vaccine and Immunization Program operations group manager, said it was “extremely irresponsible and disappointing behavior.”

False or offensive reservations were removed from the system and investigated.

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