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New text service to support the deaf and hard of hearing communities to access the Covid vaccine

November 30, 2021 | Covid-19

Efforts to support disabled peoples’ vaccinations go from strength-to-strength with the launch of a new text service, Minister for Disability Issues Carmel Sepuloni announced today.

The service is run by Whakarongorau Aotearoa on behalf of the Ministry of Health and is in response to feedback from the disability community. It is an addition to the COVID Vaccination Healthline, which already offers dedicated phone and email support for disabled people and people living with impairments to get their COVID-19 vaccination.

“We’re making it easier for the deaf, hard of hearing community and others who may be speech impaired to get vaccinated. They can now text 8988 for access to vaccine information, help to book a vaccination appointment, or support with transport,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

“It’s heartening to see good uptake of the phone and email service which has already received over 3,400 phone calls since September. It has not only been a safe haven for disabled people to discuss the vaccination, anxiety or needle phobias, but they’ve been supported to access sites with low sensory settings for example as well as home vaccinations.

“The Whakarongorau service is staffed with a dedicated team of advisors who are either living with a disability themselves, have close whānau with a disability or, have extensive experience working with the disabled community. Their lived experience makes the service unique and underlines the ethos of The Manaakitanga Journey to enhancing the vaccination experiences for disabled people.

“One in four New Zealanders identify as disabled or having an impairment. As of the 21st of November, of the 37,269 people supported by Disability Support Services and long term ACC clients nationwide, 86 percent have had their first dose, and 79 percent have been fully vaccinated.

“As we take steps towards more freedoms as a fully vaccinated Aotearoa NZ, we’re committed to ensuring that our vaccination programme continues to be as accessible and inclusive as possible to all New Zealanders.

“We’re in a new phase in our fight against COVID, and an even greater fight to protect the hauora of disabled people and their whānau,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

To contact Whakarongau Healthline:

  • call the COVID Vaccination Healthline Team on 0800 28 29 26 and ‘push 2’;
  • use the new free text option – text 8988; or
  • email the team at

The Disability COVID Vaccination Healthline team is available between 8am and 8 pm Monday to Friday. Healthline can book transport and other accommodations via Healthline.

Alternatively, disabled people can use the NZ Relay Service to contact Health Line, which offers services for Deaf, hard of hearing, speech impaired and deafblind people via the the NZ Relay App or the 24/7 help desk.

You can contact the help desk by:

  • TTY: 0800 4 713 713;
  • Voice: 0800 4 715 715;
  • Fax: 0800 4 329 697; or
  • email: