Coronavirus: Kiwis with autism get COVID-19 vaccine at 'calming' event tailored just for them

Wellingtonians with autism got their chance to get vaccinated against COVID-19 over the weekend at an event tailored just for them.

A clinic was set up to make the process more peaceful and accessible - but not everyone within the disabled community is happy with the vaccine rollout.

Jacob Cohn-Gell has autism and has a bit of a fear of needles. But he's overcome that fear, with a little bit of help, to protect himself against COVID-19.

Jacob is one of around 80 people who came to New Zealand's Autism Resource Centre at the weekend to get the jab.

"We have longer appointment times, we have less people through - purposely designing it so it's a lot more calm environment," said Nicola Clements, disability events lead for the Capital and Coast DHB.

"It's so nice, it's really calming here," Jacob said

There are approximately 93,000 people with autism in New Zealand, so having vaccination days like these are important.

"Everyone that's been in has walked out with a jab or a second jab in a couple of cases, even we thought not everyone would," said Autism NZ chief executive Dane Dougan.

There are 46 specialist vaccine events happening in Wellington to target those less likely to get the vaccine.

"Maybe you've got a needle phobia, maybe you've got learning disabilities, or are neuro-divergent," said Clements.

The Ministry of Health only monitors vaccination rates for around 35,000 people with disabilities, and says around half have received their first dose.

One advocate believes they should've been more involved with decisions around how to better target those in her community.

"The approach hasn't been good enough. This was an opportunity to build some trust with disabled people," said Disabled Persons Assembly NZ chief executive Prudence Walker.

For now, four other DHBs are keen to build on the success of this clinic to ensure people with autism come out feeling great.