Free taxi rides to ramp up first covid-19 vaccinations

By Taroi Black

Aucklanders who can't afford to travel to a vaccination centre for their first dose can catch a taxi for free.

This may come as good news for low-income families after Blue Bubble Taxi received funding from Auckland District Health Board. It's obviously money in the pocket for the taxi company but another form of help for those without a car or who can't afford to get there.

Clinical immunology and allergy expert Dr Anthony Jordan said the free taxi ride offers travel for singles, doubles, vans for larger whanau and disability because he says, “barriers getting to our site have been difficult".

The taxi plan was delivered by the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre, which rolls out the vaccination programmes in the Auckland region.  

Auckland mayor Phil Goff  says it's to see health authorities working with Auckland businesses to reduce barriers to vaccination, "and I expect we will see further initiatives to help boost the rollout in coming weeks.”

Despite more than 80 per cent of Aucklanders getting their first vaccination, yesterday’s spike has meant more accessibility to clinics is needed.

 More clinics 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says it is “highly likely” Auckland’s boundary will remain if it drops to level 2. So local government is prepared to open more public facilities to boost Covid-19 vaccinations if needed.

“We're very open to co-operating with our health authorities wherever we can.”

 Already Papakura High School has opened its doors for a two-day bus vaccination programme to make travel easier for its local community. Local businesses are also donating free kai once people have received their shots.

However, it takes a lot of human resources to operate a vaccine clinic.

Manurewa Marae kaiārahi (co-ordinator) Hilda Mariu says her organisation provided 15 vaccine workers to Papakura High School to achieve its goal of increasing move vaccination rates in the community.

“There are still workers at our marae - all we had to do was provide more support to this programme.”