DHBs struggling to get schools on board for on-site vaccination clinics

With only 61 percent of youths aged 12 to 19 fully vaccinated, calls for a school vaccine programme are growing louder.

It's up to district health boards to approach schools - but many of them aren't taking up the offer.

Taita College students took 20 minutes off class on Friday to get vaccinated and protect themselves against COVID. The students told Newshub they feel safer getting the jab at school amongst friends and teachers.

"It's really empowering to have something like this in our school right here," says student Anushka Ram.

Another senior said it was easier to get vaccinated at school than organising it in his own time.

"I know I can get it done here and not have to worry bout it."

Protesters targeted the school's first vaccine clinic, but principal Karen Morgan says that's not put them off having a second.

"If anyone is protesting they can't come onto your site, it's private property. They can't touch anyone, they can't hurt anyone."

Morgan said having staff outside the school gates so students had a friendly face to turn to was the best approach, and she's encouraging other schools to set up vaccine clinics.

But Newshub can reveal DHBs are struggling to get other schools on board.

Hawke's Bay DHB told Newshub it approached 85 schools with pupils over 12 years old, and just 11 have held vaccine clinics. 

While both the West Coast and Taranaki DHBs have approached all the secondary schools in their regions - they both say no schools have confirmed they'll host a vaccine clinic. 

In Whanganui, the DHB approached 16 schools - one declined and 11 have agreed to vaccinate on school grounds.

It's a similar story in Wairarapa where the DHB has asked 14 schools to vaccinate on-site; one has declined and three schools have either already vaccinated on-site or are planning to.

Rosey Mabin is the principal at Inglewood High School in Taranaki, and says her school declined the DHB request to vaccinate because they're a small community with other places to get vaccinated.

"I really think it's up to parents to make those decisions and make the arrangements because there are plenty of opportunities for getting their children vaccinated."

The Government doesn't have a school vaccine programme for COVID-19 and is leaving it up to individual DHBs to try and arrange vaccines in schools.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wouldn't say whether a school vaccination programme is being considered, but says schools are well supported.

"All of the way through we've supported and provided advice to schools who may choose to have vaccination clinics on site."

That's not good enough for the National Party's COVID-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop.

"Not vaccinating at schools is a real missed opportunity. We've got tens of thousands of young people all in the same place at the same time. We need a coordinated comprehensive plan to start vaccinating in schools before the end of the year."

The secondary school teachers union is backing the idea, saying it would help lift vaccine rates amongst youth.

Newshub understands some school boards have been hesitant to host vaccine clinics because of protesters, which Bishop says is concerning.

Especially when two of Monday's cases are in schools - Auckland's Mount Albert Grammar and Macleans College.

Papatoetoe High School is part of the shortlist of schools holding vaccine events. Principal Vaughan Couillault says they want to protect students.

"It's a place people know and they can turn up in familiar surroundings and see faces they are familiar with."

Eighty-two percent of 12 to 19-year-olds have now received one dose of the vaccine, and 61 percent have two.

This compares to the total population where 88 percent have received their first jab, and 75 percent are fully protected.