The New Zealand Herald

National puts heat on Govt for vaccine rollout

- Jason Walls and Adam Pearse

Early estimates of New Zealand’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout shows 390,000 vaccines were expected to have been administer­ed by now, according to a “leaked document”.

That document — a page from what appears to be a Ministry of Health report from January — was used by National to criticise the Government’s vaccine rollout yesterday.

However, experts believe New Zealand’s relatively slow vaccine rollout could be to our advantage — if we learn from those at the front of the pack.

National’s Covid-19 response spokesman Chris Bishop revealed the “leaked” informatio­n in the House yesterday afternoon.

He used it to attack the Government’s vaccinatio­n record, saying it shows that New Zealand is 300,000

We’re miles behind where we should be.

vaccines behind schedule.

But Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the document, referred to by Bishop, was “likely to be an early working document that was shared with some DHBs”.

Earlier yesterday, director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield revealed that to date just over 90,000 Covid jabs have been administer­ed.

This was, according to Hipkins, “slightly behind schedule”.

At this stage, however, it is not clear as to when this schedule was set.

Hipkins told MPs in the House that he was “broadly satisfied” with the vaccine rollout so far, which was running at roughly 95 per cent to schedule. And, in the coming weeks, the rollout would “increase significan­tly”, with DHBs forecast to deliver 55,000 doses over the next week — that’s roughly 7500 a day on average. But even with this surge, New Zealand would still be behind where the “leaked” January document expected the country to be when it comes to the vaccine rollout.

“We’re miles behind where we should be,” Bishop told media. “We need to catch up”.

Speaking to media, Hipkins said he did not know the document that Bishop was citing.

But it was likely to be a “rough working model” from officials.

“Our modelling has changed over time as we have understood more around how many vaccines in a day a vaccinator can do,” he said.

He also said the Government’s vaccine strategy had firmed up, after it was able to confirm that it had secured an additional 8.5 million Pfizer vaccines.

Meanwhile, experts say the country’s relatively slow vaccine rollout could allow New Zealand to learn from those at the front of the pack.

Internatio­nal data reveals the percentage of New Zealanders who have received at least one dose of Covid19 vaccine sits at 1.08 per cent, as at March 31. This was significan­tly lower than other OECD countries such as Israel (60.87 per cent), United Kingdom (46.44 per cent), France (13.58 per cent), Norway (12.90 per cent) and Germany (11.98 per cent).

Immunisati­on Advisory Centre director Dr Nikki Turner believes New Zealand could turn this to its benefit should officials learn what did and didn’t work for other countries that were forced to drasticall­y scale up their rollouts.

“[New Zealand] waited until we were confident about the clinical data and did not go with emergency approval. What you need to watch for now is how effective New Zealand can be since its starting point and its ability to scale up over the next few months.”

Vaccinolog­ist and University of Auckland associate professor Helen Petousis-Harris agreed that New Zealand’s position could be advantageo­us if officials learned from others. “Ideally that’s what we should be able to do ... [learn from] those who are doing well and who are struggling.”

Turner and Petousis-Harris stressed the importance of establishi­ng a workforce capable of delivering a vaccine rollout with a high daily output.

Chris Bishop, National MP

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