By Robin Martin, RNZ
Tired of waiting to be contacted about Covid-19 vaccination appointments, pensioners and people with underlying health issues are skipping the queue and making their own arrangements.
The official advice for people in Group 3 is to wait for a call from your GP, but an 0800 number that seems to magically secure appointments is now being passed hand-to-hand at church groups, cafes and work places.
Okato pensioner Ros Bazley – who turned 80 on Monday – said she was told about the 0800 number by her friends.
“We’d heard absolutely nothing and the GP had heard nothing and I was given this number by a friend of mine and she and her friends had already had their first vaccine.
“They just rang the number and got it.”
Bazley has since rung the number and has an appointment in July.
It seemed like an ad hoc way of going about things, she said.
“I’m totally amazed. I think it’s extremely bad. There’s going to be lots of people out there who don’t have the number and won’t do anything about it.”
The 0800 number is available on the Taranaki District Health Board website but you have to click through three pages first.
Only people in Group 2 who have not already been vaccinated are advised to call it.
Oakura woman Gwen Jury got the 0800 number at church.
She and her friends were getting sick of waiting, she said.
“Some of them say they are going to wait until they are sent for and some of them are ringing. Yeah, I think some of them are getting a bit tired of waiting. We were told May and then we were told June and now we’re told July.”
Jury would be using the number.
“Well I could wait, but most of my friends have had it so I’m just going to pursue the number, ring the number. I’ve got two numbers to ring.”
A 59-year-old New Plymouth man, who has an underlying health condition, said he got passed the number from a workmate.
“He overheard a conversation that was going on about the jab in a cafe and was offered the information and then passed it onto me. I rang the number and after about an hour I got through and I’m booked for this Saturday afternoon.”
It is not just in Taranaki where the system is being circumvented.
Allison Oosterman, a 73-year-old retiree, said a friend had told her you could just turn up to a vaccination clinic in West Auckland and get a shot.
“So I thought ‘Oh right okay’, so I got in the car immediately and drove there. Was greeted at the door and asked ‘have you booked?’ So I said ‘No’ and they said ‘That’s all right, fill in the forms and sit there’.
“And honestly we went through and it was all over in an hour and that’s including the 20 minutes you have to wait afterwards.”
Oosterman said she had since been back for the second shot – also without a booking.
The Northern Region Health Coordination Centre said people should not just walk up to clinics, but admitted that people who did may well get vaccinated if someone had not arrived for an appointment.
“We are strongly advising people who are eligible to book to ensure they can get their vaccination.”
Vaccine rollout frustrating GPs
Medical Association deputy chairperson Vanessa Weenink said the vaccination rollout was frustrating GPs.
“I mean GPs are a bit disgruntled about this because they are spending a lot of their time talking to people about the vaccine rollout and most of the time we don’t have the vaccine there that we can give to people and we don’t have much input into the planning of this.”
She could understand why people were taking things into their own hands.
“Absolutely and to be honest when we don’t have an outbreak the impact of that is minimal, but if we were to have an outbreak and have rationing of supplies or anything else like that then it still makes sense that you would need to prioritise people.”
In a statement, the Taranaki DHB said all people in Group 3 would receive an invitation via their GP to book an vaccination appointment by the end of July.
“People do not need to do anything now, except wait for their invite,” it said.
A National Call Centre had been established and the DHB said Taranaki was the first region to be fully operational on the National Booking System.
“The system is very busy with a large volume of calls, but there is also an online booking option available to those in Group 3 that have received their invite to book.”
The DHB vaccinated 1900 people last week but hopes that will soon increase to 6000 a week.
As of 1pm 30 June 14,257 vaccination doses had been administered in Taranaki.
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