Coronavirus: Inconsistent COVID-19 vaccine messaging causes frustration around New Zealand

One woman did an 150km round trip after getting the all-clear to go to a vaccination centre only to be turned around when she got there.
One woman did an 150km round trip after getting the all-clear to go to a vaccination centre only to be turned around when she got there. Photo credit: Getty Images.

Inconsistent messaging over whether COVID-19 vaccine centres are open or closed is causing confusion and frustration around the country. 

Health officials imposed a temporary two-day suspension on vaccinations as New Zealand entered a snap three-day lockdown to give clinics time to comply with lockdown protocols. 

Then on Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said some centres could be operational before the 48-hour thresholds.

A Northern Region Health Coordination Centre (NRHCC) spokesperson told Newshub it is working to reopen community centres as quickly as possible. 

"On Tuesday evening when the move to alert level 4 was announced, we sent messages to everyone with appointments on Wednesday and Thursday advising them that they would need to rebook," they said.

"We also sent text and email notifications this morning to people who were booked in for today to confirm whether their appointment was going ahead or not." 

But it appears the messaging isn't reaching everyone - and the varying timeframes for the different centres being back up and running are causing stress for members of the public trying to get their COVID-19 vaccine. 

One man contacted Newshub to say his 66-year-old partner drove 75km from their home outside of Tinopai to a vaccine centre in Dargaville only to find it wasn't operational. She had no choice but to rebook, turn around and go home.

The woman has an underlying health issue and was booked for her vaccine on Wednesday. The centre was closed so it could implement its level 4 requirements, so the woman called ahead earlier on Thursday to confirm she was able to get it today instead. 

"When she got there she was told they are not doing them there today and rebooked her for September. What a waste of time, money and mileage," he explained. 

Another man, Jim, is 62 years old from Auckland and has underlying health issues.

He says he had an appointment for August 19 but on Tuesday - August 17 - when news of a community COVID-19 case broke, he was told all vaccinations had been put on hold. But after hearing  Jacinda Ardern say vaccinations would resume on Thursday he figured he would be okay. 

"I then received a text message on the 18th [Wednesday] to confirm and remind me of my 8:30 am appointment. I left shortly after 8 [today] to get to the centre only to find it was closed and wouldn't be open until Saturday the 21st," he told Newshub. 

He says it took him the best part of an hour to finally get through to the helpline, only to be told he couldn't get vaccinated for another month. 

"After some fairly heated discussion, I got it brought forward to the beginning of next month.

"I find it very unfair that because of the Government's inefficiency I have been pushed to the back of the queue."

Another man told Newshub his wife turned up at their local vaccine centre on Thursday morning in Rangiora and was refused a vaccine because the couple were in Auckland in the last 14 days. 

"The vaccine helpline could not explain why she was refused and the centre that she went to said they had been told to ask a number of questions, including whether or not you had been in Auckland," the man told Newshub. 

He says the situation is very "frustrating and stressful".

"People in Auckland are still getting their COVID injections, but people in the south island are being refused.

"My wife was only asked if she had visited Auckland and my wife replied that we were there over the weekend and the lady replied with 'you'll have to rebook your appointment as we can't give you your injection today'," he said. 

Others have had difficulty getting a vaccine in Auckland too. 

One woman told Newshub her husband was due for a vaccine on Thursday in Birkenhead but got a message not to turn up, then another to attend. The couple called ahead and told to go, only to find on arrival it was shut.

"The next available appointment isn't until the end of September in Mt Wellington - we live on the North Shore, this is absolutely crazy." 

The NRHCC says anyone who did have an appointment booked while some centres are still adjusting should expect to hear in the coming days. 

"We will be sending text or email confirmation to people to let them know if their appointments are still going ahead or whether they will need to reschedule, so please keep an eye out for these.

"Our vaccination centres will be operating at reduced capacity to ensure we can observe appropriate social distancing measures to help protect the people getting their vaccinations and our staff.

They said sites in Henderson, Westgate, Manurewa and Otara have been reopened and more will be reopening on Friday.

"The majority of our General Practice and pharmacy sites have also reopened today."