More than 550 people in Thames asked for help to get their vaccine passes in the first few days of the new Covid-19 traffic light system.
Under the new framework, which came into effect on December 3, vaccine passes are now required to enter many venues and events, including cafes, restaurants and hairdressers.
Thames-Coromandel District Libraries manager Ania Biazik said Thames Library staff were surprised that prior to December 4, 566 people from as far away as Cambridge and Paeroa came to them for help to set up their vaccine pass.
Some people struggled with remembering their password to apply for the vaccine pass, or didn’t have an NHI number, proof of identity, or an idea of how vaccination passes worked digitally, she said.
“If people aren’t equipped with their vaccination passes, they’re being excluded from so many commercial facilities and services, so libraries are contributing to the well being of our community,” she said.
“Libraries have become the destination for those people who want to print and laminate their vaccine passes at a low cost or download them on their phones, but also many people come to the libraries for the human touch and reassurance that we’re here to help and support you.
“Once we’ve helped a customer, there’s been an overwhelming attitude of being grateful for the service.”
Many customers were first time visitors to the library, even after living in the area for a long time, she said, and many had no idea that a service like this would be provided by their local library.
But the high number of people needing help had put pressure on staff.
“We have only a limited number of staff so we had to reach out to our casual library assistants to come in because demand just exceeded staff expectations.
“We’re very thankful in advance for all the customer kindness and patience as the library staff just don’t know on the day who’s going to come, what information customers already have and how much support customers need.”
Ania thanked library staff for their work helping customers with their vaccine passes.
“I’m really proud of our team in Thames-Coromandel District Libraries who stood up to the challenge and how they managed to get through that first wave of very very high demand and the sudden switch from our planned work to putting our customers and community first,” she said.
“I think the staff have reached the depth of their empathy levels because it can be demanding and draining with the surge of customers.”
In a statement, Age Concern Hauraki Coromandel manager Glenis Bell said fear about the virus could be coming from people’s inability to obtain a vaccine pass, even if they were vaccinated.
“So messages about who can support getting one are really reassuring,” she said.
Members of the public can also get help with vaccine passes at selected pharmacies.
Unichem Thames pharmacist Anas Wadood said a lot of people wanting help with their vaccine passes experienced digital difficulties.
“A lot of them don’t have emails or computer or phone access, so we provide a hardcopy for them so they can access places like cafes and hairdressers and they’re very appreciative of that,” he said.
“The staff have been amazing in quickly adopting this whole system in such short notice from the Ministry of Health, who’ve only given us a day or two for pharmacies to assist patients with their vaccine passes.”