Protesters in Gisborne force Jacinda Ardern to cancel another vaccine clinic visit, research shows incentives could be key

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was yet again forced to cancel a visit to a COVID-19 vaccination clinic after a small group of anti-vaxxers railroaded her plans to encourage the vaccine drive in Gisborne. 

But Newshub can reveal incentives might just be the ticket to reaching 90 percent vaccination of the eligible population sooner, according to the latest hesitancy research. 

Ardern was in Tairawhiti on Thursday, Aotearoa's least immunised region, to try and get vaccination numbers up. 

"I did it for my little girl because she can't be vaccinated," Ardern told a woman and child. 

But boy, how quickly the mood changed when 20 angry anti-vaxxers gate-crashed.

"You're harming our children!" a woman shouted. 

The Prime Minister attempted to reason with the unreasonable. 

"On kids, there will always be choice, always, you have my absolute commitment on that," she told the protester, before being bundled away by security. 

The protestors tracked Ardern to her next visit, but she snuck in the back.

"Yes, I have a small travelling band with me at the moment, and a few of them are quite keen to join our lunch today," Ardern laughed. 

But the small band was loud enough to cancel another visit to a vaccination clinic. 

These are the very vocal but very small minority, with Ministry of Health research showing there is only 5 percent hardcore anti-vaxxers who have stopped listening. 

The rest of the hesitant are still up for grabs. The Ministry of Health has been surveying whether incentives could be the trick.

The research shows 24 percent said $100 cash would sway them, 21 percent were into a $100 voucher, while 12 percent said a smartphone would be convincing. 

"Personally, I'd like to incentivise, so giving people food vouchers, giving people petrol vouchers, giving them food vouchers," says Tui Warmenhoven, a director on the board of Te Runanganui o Ngāti Porou. 

The survey found that while it wouldn't have a massive impact on overall vaccination numbers, incentives could speed up the unsures and those who are unlikely. 

"There are incentives running up and down the country, there are incentives right here in this region - but this community will know best the things that will make a difference," Ardern said. 

The country's most remote communities have struggled with access.

"If you came to town on a Tuesday or a Thursday and the clinic's on a Wednesday - which the clinic in Ruatoria is - then you miss out," says Warmenhoven.

The East Coast didn't have a single Super Saturday vaccination event. One woman was so worried about access that she hit up local Labour MP Kiritapu Allan on Instagram, saying: "I cannot tell you how frustrating this is Kiri. No wonder vax rates are so low in Tairawhiti."

Allan replied: "I've been hustling ... But politicians don't get to determine where those resources are sent my friend."

Allan insists she has done enough to advocate. 

"Look, absolutely," he told Newshub. "Super Saturday was pretty successful on all accounts for the East Coast." 

Who knows how much more successful it could have been?

Some locals Newshub spoke to were disappointed that Rhythm and Vines might not go ahead due to the region's low vaccination rates. 

"Well that sucks, Rhythm and Vines is awesome," one person said. 

"It'd be an impact on Gisborne, on our community," said another. 

Still, just 72 percent are fully vaccinated in Tairawhiti, so when the country eventually wakes up to the new dawn of the 'traffic light' system, a red light looms over the first place to see the sun.

"Those areas that are well under the 90, then yes, we would consider moving into the red," Ardern said. 

Newshub spoke to the organisers of Rhythm and Vines and they say they're trying to stay optimistic. But the locals are split on whether they want it to go ahead. 

Tairawhiti needs another 7752 jabs to get to 90 percent fully vaccinated. But with Cabinet's traffic light move just 11 days away, it's looking increasingly likely it'll have a red light summer. That means no Rhythm and Vines. 

The key now is speeding up the vaccine hesitant. Most say they will get it at some point, for some it's a matter of months, and others want to wait up to a year. 

But with COVID-19 seeping out of Auckland's border, time is running out.