Finally we can say it, Aotearoa.
Hooray for high numbers.
On Saturday almost 130,000 Kiwis joined Team Jabbed when they took a wee needle in the arm and a whopping great step towards a future free from the blight of Covid-19’s Delta variant, now entrenched in Auckland – where case numbers are rising – and threatening the rest of the country.
Many others made the magic happen, from the health workers on the frontlines of the country’s first mass vaccination event, Super Saturday vaxathon, to those pulling on silly costumes, scooping ice-creams, turning an Air New Zealand 787 Dreamliner into a pop up vax site, doing pūkana and haka, singing, dancing and generally making a whole lot of hoorah to encourage the busy or hesitant to get their first jabs, and the halfway theres to get their second.
It was a carnival atmosphere, and it worked.
By 3pm Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was setting a new vaxathon goal of 150,000 after her original 100,000 target was smashed. The previous single day vaccination record was 90,757 on August 26.
As of 10pm on Saturday, 129,965 doses had been given, including more than 40,000 in the three Auckland district health board areas. Canterbury had the highest single DHB numbers, with 17,036 vaccinations.
Labour MP Tamati Coffey, among at least 90,000 who rolled up their sleeves for a second dose, met one inquisitive passerby – now first-dose-done – drawn into Rotorua’s Fordlands Community Centre vaccination hub after hearing music.
She wanted to know what was happening, Coffey said, and then decided to not only get her first jab but return home and make sure her son did the same.
“If we come to their spaces, they will show up.”
Where to get a vaccination in Auckland – without a booking
Much of the focus on Saturday was on reaching those with the lowest vaccination uptake so far – Māori, Pasifika and the young.
At the Pasifika Youth Vax Festival in Porirua free gaming, barber cuts and food kept the crowds happy till a dancing director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield arrived to drop dad jokes on the mic.
“This is not a Covid-19 announcement”, Bloomfield said, before thanking everyone and reminding them the job’s not yet done.
“Everyone who’s had a vaccination today, awesome. If you’ve had it already, fantastic. If you know some who hasn’t, just talk to them and get them to come and have one as well.”
At Te Whānau O Waipareira Vaccination Clinic in West Auckland’s Henderson, the first 250 jabbed got a free bag of mussels, while a hāngī for 800 was among afternoon incentives, along with giveaways and spot prizes.
“And most of all, we’re all here”, staffer Danielle Vaoga said on video.
“Come and join us.”
In Bay of Plenty, Wiremu Taurima left a Mt Maunganui vax clinic with a smile on his face and pride in his heart.
“I got my first jab and I feel really good that I’ve done it. The whole telethon buzz where it sort of felt like I wasn’t just the only one doing it, it sort of made me feel like we were doing it all together as a team … I actually feel I’m part of the team now.”
And Taurima could find himself part of Kiwi director Taika Waititi’s team after the Oscar winner, who hoped to see at least 25,000 Māori jabbed on Saturday, okayed an on air suggestion someone vaccinated today get the chance to tour the set next time he was shooting in New Zealand.
The Prime Minister, on air with Waititi, then pushed the celebrated filmmaker to boost the prize to include the winner appearing as an extra.
“There you go”, Ardern said, after Waititi backed the suggestion.
“If you want to be an extra and spend time on set with Taika, get vaccinated.”
Kiwi songstress Lorde also appeared via satellite to encourage needles in arms “so we can get back to normal life”.
“I cannot wait to come and play a concert, and be all sweaty and dancing, and hopefully not wearing a mask.”
It wasn’t all happy news on Super Saturday.
There were 41 new community cases, and 31 people with Covid-19 are in hospital, six in intensive or high dependency care units. Wellsford residents were urged to get tested after two positive detections in wastewater samples in the north Auckland town.
And about 2000 protesters, many without masks, breached level 3 restrictions when then gathered at Auckland Domain. Similar small pockets gathered in other parts of the country.
But while speakers pushed the case for freedom from alert level restrictions, the pilot of a light aircraft pulled a banner across the sky.
“Love NZ – Get Your Jab Bro”, the banner read.
Vaccination is, Bloomfield said this week, our ticket to freedom.
And the higher the rate, the fewer of our friends, family and community risk getting sick or dying.
In the first hours of Saturday’s Vaxathon, Newstalk ZB host Jack Tame joked with his Saturday Morning show listeners about the “smorgasboard” of food freebies on offer for those rolling up their sleeves.
It was easy to mock Super Saturday, Tame said.
“But today, on day-whatever-it-is of lockdown in Auckland, I’ve made a conscious decision to be positive. Super Saturday is about more than just jabs … it’s a common cause at an extremely stressful time.
“And fundamentally, I think we should do whatever it takes to get as many people vaccinated as possible. Whatever it takes.”
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