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Doctors who have called patients home to address concerns about the Covid-19 vaccine have racked up a bill of just over $ 250,000.

The program, managed by the Northern Region Health Coordination Center (NRHCC) which encompasses the district health boards of Auckland, Manukau and Waitematā counties, has recruited a handful of general practitioners across Tāmaki Makaurau to build on their existing relationships with their Maori and Pasifika patients.

Since the beginning of October, general practitioners have spoken to nearly 4,200 patients.

They managed to get over 1,400 – about a third – for their first doses.

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The program allows general practitioners and, as of the beginning of the month, nurses to claim for every virtual consultation they have with a Maori or Pacific patient regarding vaccination.

General practitioners and nurses have been funded to phone Maori and Pacific patients who are reluctant to get vaccinated.  (File photo)

Ryan Anderson / Stuff

General practitioners and nurses have been funded to phone Maori and Pacific patients who are reluctant to get vaccinated. (File photo)

Each call is billed at the standard consultation rate of $ 60, as the pilot program already accumulates a tab of $ 250,000.

Where the calls did not immediately lead to vaccination, some practices had been scheduled in follow-up discussions with those open to them, according to an NRHCC spokesperson.

“It can sometimes take a number of conversations with healthcare professionals, whānau and other trusted people before someone is ready to be vaccinated,” the spokesperson said.

GPs and volunteers from Manurewa Marae in South Auckland went door to door in South Auckland with their vaccination bus.  (File photo)

LAWRENCE SMITH / Tips

GPs and volunteers from Manurewa Marae in South Auckland went door to door in South Auckland with their vaccination bus. (File photo)

“Patients may also want to talk to whānau after talking to their GP before coming in for their vaccination. “

One of the doctors involved in the program, Matire Harwood, said it was a good step.

However, more needs to be done to increase vaccination rates among vulnerable communities, she said.

Dr Matire Harwood of the Papakura Marae Health Clinic says more needs to be done to immunize vulnerable people.

Ricky Wilson / Stuff

Dr Matire Harwood of the Papakura Marae Health Clinic says more needs to be done to immunize vulnerable people.

Harwood and his team from the Papakura Marae Health Clinic in South Auckland took their own vaccine trailer into the community and vaccinated people there in Manurewa and Papakura.

Immunization rates have been declining recently, which is why, when it was launched, the call-to-home program was touted as a way to engage with those who might have been missed by the larger immunization message.

With a success rate of 36%, this is helping to reverse the trend, but it may not be enough to bring Maori vaccination rates to 90% in Auckland before the planned easing of restrictions on November 29.

Health providers will need to deliver more than 4,000 vaccines to Maori in Auckland’s three DHBs to bring Maori double dose rates to 90%.

The home call service has also expanded to include people with long-term health conditions, the NHRCC spokeswoman said.

“With Covid-19 circulating in the community, every vaccination can make a real difference for individuals and the community. “