Thursday, July 18, 2024

NZ won’t rush COVID vaccine

New Zealand’s COVID-19 recovery minister says the government will not rush its vaccination rollout after news that Australia had brought its start date forward.

Minister Chris Hipkins said the aim was to begin vaccinating frontline workers from April this year in what will be the country’s largest ever immunisation campaign.

Speaking to RNZ’s Morning Report, Hipkins said he was confident a portion of the vaccines would arrive by the end of March.

“We’re expecting the vaccination campaign overall to take most of the year, it’s obviously a huge undertaking – we’re talking about vaccinating 5 million people,” Mr Hipkins said.

“That’s never been done in New Zealand before, in the scale and in the timeframe we’re talking about.”

The government has ordered over 23 million doses from four different suppliers, including the Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines.

The Minister said Australia was being more optimistic about when exactly the vaccines will be ready after Prime Minister Scott Morrison brought the rollout date forward to February.

He said New Zealand’s vaccination programme will prioritise border workers, frontline staff and the elderly.

He acknowledged that some of the country’s communities will be harder to reach and said the government is working hard on strategies to overcome those hurdles.

Earlier this month, the National iwi chairs forum put forward six recommendations to the government to safeguard at risk communities.

The forum’s Pandemic Response Group co-chair, Mike Smith, said the government’s rollout strategy did not go far enough to protect those who are most at risk from COVID-19.

“Kaumātua, kōroua, kuia and other Māori aged over 50 are potentially at risk of Covid-19 and have not been identified as one of the high risk groups and we haven’t seen any evidence in the vaccination strategy that they’re included as an at risk group,” he said.

“The government should be entering discussions with Māori to bring the vaccination strategy into line with their obligations to safeguard us.”

Their recommendations included capping the number of arrivals from overseas, halting plans to create quarantine-free travel bubbles and introducing pre-flight testing – something the government has now implemented.

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