Vaccination is critical, Waitaki District Health Services chief executive Phil Jamieson says.

“It’s critical for protecting yourself, it’s critical for protecting your family and community, and it’s also critical for protecting the healthcare system.”

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Oamaru Hospital’s plans for dealing with Covid in the community had continued to evolve, Mr Jamieson said.

“The Delta variant in the recent outbreak has presented some challenges and some changes to assumptions around planning, because of the increased rate of transmission,” Mr Jamieson said.

“We’re planning, we’re replanning – and really things are changing on a daily basis.

“The concern we all have is the capacity of our healthcare system to manage with the numbers that could present.”

At Oamaru Hospital, and most other hospitals around the country, patient numbers and acuity levels were high without Covid in the community.

“It really stresses why, if there are ways we can alleviate pressure on that system, it’s in everyone’s interests.”

Central Medical owner Dr Jon Scott said he was “very concerned” about the potential spread of Covid in the community and the pressure it could put on healthcare providers.

Dr Scott felt a great sense of responsibility to protect himself, his staff, his patients and his community.

“To be very honest, I feel very, very nervous about it – I can see what is in front of us,” he said.

“I do not know how were going to do it.”

Reaching out to the unvaccinated was not easy. Dr Scott was giving his patients a copy of a British Medical Journal article about Covid-19 death rates.

“Unvaccinated Americans have died at 11 times the rate of those fully-vaccinated since the Delta variant became the dominant strain.

“Whatever your opinion, the unvaccinated are dying at 11 times the rate of the vaccinated.”

Some of the vaccine opposition centred around civil liberties.

“But what about the civil liberty of the community being protected from the individual who decides not to be vaccinated, but is actually more infectious and is more of a risk to the very community in which they live?

“This is a life and death thing and as a community, we’ve got to pull together. We’ve all got to protect each other, from each other.”

North Otago Health Centre and Junction Doctors had been reaching out to unvaccinated patients and were taking “every opportunity” they could to discuss the vaccine with them, owner Dr Andrew Wilson said.

“Whether that’s during routine appointments or whether that’s contacting them by phone or text.”

Dr Wilson said he had noticed an increase in the number of “walk-ins” for their first vaccinations this week, particularly in the younger age group.

The North End Health Centre was still vaccinating six days a week, and accepting everybody ins.

Dr Wilson was hoping tomorrow’s “Super Saturday” vaxathon would give those “who might be in two minds” about the vaccine the push they needed.

“We are building anticipation towards Saturday, and we’ll have extra staff on.”

Since the rollout started, North End Health Centre staff had administered more than 6500 doses of the vaccine.

“At our peak we were doing 900 a week, and we’re currently doing about 400 a week.”

The higher the vaccination rate reached, the sooner restrictions would be lifted.

“If we have a high vaccination rate, that will support our local hospital if we do find we have a lot of community cases of Covid.”