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Prime minister to arrive in Gisborne this evening in push to lift vaccination rates

Time running out for R&V festival-goers to receive Covid-19 immunisation.

With vaccine passport details still to be confirmed, Rhythm and Vines festival-goers have been warned they could have as little as a week to get their first Covid-19 vaccination dose, or miss the party.

“It can take up to eight weeks to be fully protected or double vaxxed,” said Hauora Tairawhiti spokeswoman Di Akurangi this morning.

“If people are looking to have fun in the sun with mates, they'll need to have their vaccine passports ready by simply receiving their first dose during the month of October and the second dose three weeks later in November.”

Rhythm and Vines starts on December 28, meaning those with tickets for that day could have as little as five days to get their first shot in time.

In a push to boost vaccination uptake here, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern arrives in Gisborne this evening to open the Tairawhiti Arts Festival, but also to visit various vaccination clinics in the region over the weekend.

The Government has approved the introduction of vaccine passports for large-scale events. The scheme should be available in November, in time for large summer festivals. Rhythm and Vines have already announced anyone wanting to attend the New Year's event will need to be vaccinated.

“It is clear, if you wish to attend Rhythm and Vines at the end of the year, you will need to get yourself vaccinated,” reads a post on the festival's Facebook page.

Dual purpose to Ardern's visit

Hauora Tairawhiti has now launched its Passport to Play initiative to inform and engage the 18-30 year age group most associated with summer festivals.

“These are the age bands who are not presenting for vaccinations,” Ms Akurangi said.

“We have two large-scale events on the horizon, the R&V and Summer Frequencies concerts.

“Other events that people travel to from Gisborne are One Love and Bay Dreams in Tauranga.

“We know that this group need to be vaccinated this month. This campaign aims to make that happen.”

Ministry of Health national digital services group manager Michael Dreyer said the ministry was still consulting with the business, hospitality and the events sector on the finer details of how the vaccine certificate can work “on the ground”.

“We're working through the policy settings for exactly when proof of vaccination will be required, and how the certificates will be used in practice.”

Extra Covid-19 vaccination clinics are also on the way to help boost the region's immunisation rates, In addition to already established clinics, vaccines will now be available at the Lowe Street Winz office today and Monday.

“The WINZ team have emailed and texted all clients and every business claiming the wage subsidy to inform them of the clinic today and Monday and to pop in.”

The Gisborne drive-through vaccination centre at Harry Barker Reserve will also swing back into operation and run daily from tomorrow until October 16.

“We also have a new community pop-up clinic at Blackpool Park, in Blackpool St Elgin, next Wednesday.”

People checking out Te Ara a Whiti, the Tairawhiti Arts Festival's light trail, tonight, will be able to pop into a re-purposed GoBus bus for their vaccination. The pop-up clinic will be on-site in the Lawson Field Theatre carpark from 5pm-8pm.

Another pop-up clinic will be at Saturday's Ngati Porou East Coast rugby game at Whakarua Park in Ruatoria.

The Prime Minister will tonight open the festival at Lawson Field Theatre, as part of her East Coast visit to boost vaccination numbers. She will be coming from Wairoa.

Health Minister Chris Hipkins yesterday said Tairawhiti was one of the parts of the country “where we need to do better”, adding that the Prime Minister's presence in the region was expected to make a difference.

Over the course of the weekend, the Prime Minister will be visiting the drive-through vaccination centre set up by Turanga Health at Harry Barker Reserve, and she will be travelling up the Coast tomorrow.

Those living on the East Coast will also have the opportunity to get vaccinated on Saturday at pop-up clinics at Kahuitara Park for the Ngāti Porou East Coast women's rugby game against Eastern Bay of Plenty and later at Whakarua Park where the Ngāti Porou East Coast men will play South Canterbury. The PM will be at both games.

“We are excited to welcome the Prime Minister to Tairawhiti as we continue to ramp up our efforts to enable vaccination of the remaining 13,281 people in our population who are eligible to get vaccinated,” said Hauora Tairawhiti chief executive Jim Green.

“We look forward to walking the Prime Minister through our vaccination programme and exploring how we maximise every opportunity to get our community fully vaccinated.”

To date, 48,563 doses of the vaccine have been administered in Tairawhiti, with 28,684 (68.4 percent) of the eligible population having now received at least one dose.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is pictured above in Rotorua earlier this month. The Daily Post picture by Andrew Warner