Weak demand for South Auckland mass vaccination event

By Will Trafford

Demand for South Auckland’s mass Covid-19 vaccination event has been weak, with less than a quarter of those invited, taking up the invitation.

Scheduled for Friday, July 30 at South Auckland's Vodafone Events Centre in Manukau, the event was a first of its kind for the motu, with 12 staff hoping to vaccinate one person every minute.

The event initially targeted some 15,500 students attending the Manukau Institute of Technology, and their family members.

Public health officials now say fewer than 3000 registered and they've had to extend invitations to more than 140,000 people to get enough bookings for the event to go ahead. 

The head of the rollout for Auckland’s district health boards, Alex Pimm, says his team are trying to ascertain why so few signed up. 

‘I think it is always disappointing when something that you've planned for doesn't get the response that you were hoping for. I think it is an opportunity to learn about how we run these events for New Zealand in the future,’ he told RNZ.

'Explore new ways'

Auckland’s DHBs say they initially extended invites to 82,000 Māori and Pacific people but still did not get enough bookings. 

Māori and Pasifika health leaders have been scathing of DHB community outreach. 

Māori pandemic group (Te Rōpū Whakakaupapa Urutā) member Teresa Wall told Waatea News the Health Ministry needs to "explore new ways to get the Covid vaccination message out".

Wall says the fact Māori vaccination rates are falling below target shouldn’t be blamed on vaccine hesitancy but systems and outreach.

"You need to make a judgment about whether the systems in place are enabling Māori to book in for their vaccine, and I don't think they are at the moment. It's not working well," Ms Wall says.

That sentiment was echoed by South Auckland general practitioner Dr Api Talemaitoga who told RNZ Friday's event lacked Māori and Pasifika input.

One-car families

"I think the organisers should have thought about making it a celebration or an event that is like a festival where people come along with their friends, can listen to a bit of music, or watch a bit of entertainment or dancing. Have a bit of food and then get vaccinated," he said.

Talemaitoga was also critical of the three-day event’s scheduling and the fact walk-ins were not part of the plan.

"It's over a weekend. They'll have to take kids to rugby. There's only one car in the family, so it'll be when that is available, so they can't actually make an appointment because they don't know when the car will be free, so we need to make it available for people to be able to walk in," he said.

Pimm says DHB officials will conduct a review into why people did not book, be it the wrong type of community engagement, the inconvenience of a three-day event, and if it was a mistake to focus on a smaller targeted group.