Health providers may get only one shot at vaccinating complex cases, so walk-ins must be prioritised over the booking system, a health clinic says.
Add to that the problem of inflexible bookings and miscommunication, and vaccination can seem more difficult than it’s worth for some, Stuff was told.
One Ōtaki mother, who was vaccinated in July, had been struggling to convince her teenage kids to do the same.
“They weren’t keen,” she said. “I think they had developed in their own minds, through social media and all the negative kōrero, they just didn’t want it.”
* Covid-19: Māori walking into a ‘perfect storm’ with low vaccination rates
* Plan to let Covid-19 patients isolate at home will lead to burnout for health workers – GP
* Covid-19 message from Te Arawa: Get vaccinated to save lives
It took months of conversations and emotional pleas before her son, 18, finally agreed to get vaccinated.
When, soon after, a vaccine requirement for a kura kaupapa trip to the South Island convinced her 16-year-old daughter to get the jab as well, their mum knew she had no time to waste.
“I rang Ōtaki Medical Centre to ask to book them in on a Friday. I needed a Friday because my son doesn’t have course on Friday and I wanted them to get it together because he would be a comfort to her.”
But the woman was told the centre only took walk-ins on Mondays and Tuesdays, both days wouldn’t work for her whānau. She was offered a booking for Saturday, November 6, three weeks after her initial inquiry. After seeing record-breaking case numbers in Auckland, she searched for somewhere that would take them earlier.
She tried Waikanae, one town south, and Paraparaumu, further south, before finding a Friday booking last week.
Striking while the iron’s hot was essential to getting her whānau vaccinated, she said, but when they were ready to take the plunge it wasn’t available.
“There’s bound to be thousands like us,” she said.
Stuff agreed to not identify the family because of their concerns the teenagers could be targeted on social media.
Ōtaki Medical Centre chief executive Kiwa Raureti said he would follow up with his clinic to find out how the family had been let down .
“We would try as hard as we could not to turn them away because people change their minds really quickly.”
Raureti said whānau coming to his clinic were often struggling with the decision to get vaccinated, so when they arrived, the vaccine needed to be ready to use before they changed their mind.
There is a process to get Pfizer vaccines ready, with five to six doses per vial. Any unused doses in a vial have to be discarded after six hours. The clinic is prepared to waste some doses, to make sure people got their shots, Raureti said. But acknowledged the Ministry of Health would not appreciate the waste.
“If we have to waste them, then we have to, to get these complex cases … We have to sacrifice for the sake of the greater good,” he said.
Associate Health Minister Peeni Henare gives an update on Māori vaccination efforts.
The booking system was another key issue, Raureti said. Māori were often reluctant to share their information and wanted to get vaccinated then and there, which is why many clinics no longer use the booking system.
Instead, he said, vaccination centres needed to be available for whānau whenever they were ready, rather than asking people to wait until the centre was prepared.
“The people who are coming in now have a fear of the vaccine.
“We’ll even go to people’s houses to vaccinate them on the day.”
Covid-19 vaccinations continue to creep up towards the Government’s 90 per cent target, with 87 per cent of the eligible population taking their first dose. First doses for Māori sat at 70 per cent, according to the Ministry of Health.
There were 41,197 people who were waiting to get their booked vaccinations as of Thursday, but the Ōtaki mum believed there were many others still on the fence who would take up a spur-of-the-moment vaccination.
That was the case for a Ngāi Tahu man in Ōtautahi.
The 28-year-old was wary of the vaccine and held a deep mistrust of the Government, but on Labour Day he decided to get vaccinated.
“I was against it, very against it,” he said.
“I’ve been peer pressured by people around me, I’ve been told no jab no job, I’ve been classed as a health risk, but I was in the vicinity, so I thought, ‘Might as well.’”
He had seen the advertisements for Addington’s walk-in vaccination centre and arrived ready to take the jab.
“It’s always saying, ‘Come down and get your vaccination,’ but no-one was there,” he said.
“That was my chance to get it when I didn’t have work to do.
“Three other cars turned up, asking me if this is where you get it, and I said yes, but this is a sign not to.”
If the walk-ins had been running he would have received his first vaccine and booked in for his second, but he didn’t want to use the booking system for his first dose.
“My mate booked in three or four weeks ago and he still hasn’t been done, whereas you can rock up and you can get jabbed.”
Like the Ōtaki family, the man did not want to be identified because he may face flak for not being vaccinated.
Raureti said the man’s experience was indicative of others in the community.
“Just about everyone now who has come in has struggled with the choice.
“His experience is absolutely what we can expect. If we turn them away, they’ll take it as a sign.”
Dr Lily Fraser, clinical director for Turuki Health Care in Māngere said she knew of whānau in other areas of Aotearoa who had similar issues with the booking system and not being able to get vaccinated on days and times that worked for them.
“If you have a negative experience with your attempts to get vaccinated, it can affect people’s trust in the process.”
Her South Auckland clinic had been dealing with misinformation circulating through the community for months, and with the vaccine only becoming available to everyone over 12 years old from September 1, it gave whānau time to become fearful of the vaccine, she said.
“We’ve definitely advocated from the beginning that people should just be able to get vaccinated, especially Māori. It created a delay.”
Same-day vaccinations were needed to capture people who had made the choice to vaccinate, Fraser said. She acknowledged the Ministry of Health’s online booking system does show where walk-in clinics were daily.
The Ministry of Health was approached for comment.