Pfizer has confirmed that about 1 million doses of its vaccine will be delivered to New Zealand during July.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed the deliveries at the post-Cabinet press conference this afternoon.
This would nearly double the total number of doses delivered so far to 1.9 million – enough to vaccinate a quarter of all New Zealanders.
“The doses will arrive in weekly drops, ramping up in quantity from mid-July as we start to move to the wider population roll out,” Hipkins said.
“The drops will enable us to continue vaccinating Groups 1, 2 and 3, while giving us the certainty needed to start the general population rollout [from the end of July] as planned.”
DHBs can start to ramp up the rollout through Group 3 from mid-July, he said, which included those over the age of 65, and people with disabilities and some underlying health conditions.
Hipkins said the Government was working with DHBs to make sure they could scale up in early July in line with vaccine shipments.
New Zealand shouldn’t run out of vaccines at the end of July, even though the largest shipments were due at the end of July, he said.
Current dose rates of 20,000 a day would increase to up to 50,000 a day by August, Ardern said.
New Zealand had so far vaccinated more people than Australia per capita, she said.
Pfizer had also advised its remaining schedule was on track for 2021. Now there was a firm idea of the delivery schedule, Cabinet would make further decisions on the rollout on Monday, Ardern said.
This would include details of the online booking system.
Ardern said having a vaccinated population gave another layer of security against outbreaks, along with border measures.
Other countries experiencing third waves were losing lives and needed to be prioritised, she said, and New Zealand was in “the right place” in the global rollout.
Ardern, who today said she’d be vaccinated by the end of next week, said she had not made her Australia trip at the start of July contingent on having had both vaccinations.
Last Wednesday, at the last vaccine rollout update, director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield said there were about 260,000 doses in stock, and weekly deliveries for the rest of June were expected to be around 50,000.
Gaps at the border
Hipkins said work was “well advanced” to set up more vaccination sites, mass vaccination events, and bring more GPs and pharmacies on board to help with the rollout.
Earlier today Hipkins said the biggest gaps in vaccinations among border workers – who are meant to be at the front of the queue – were at ports.
He was commenting on figures release to the Weekend Herald showing 3800 non-MIQ border workers are yet to have a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
It’s unclear how many of them are subject to a public health order, which requires all MIQ workers and all Government employees at the border to be fully vaccinated in order to work on the front lines.
Port workers were lower risk than airport workers, Hipkins said, but he noted the port engineer who caught Covid-19 at the workplace last year.
“The length of time it takes for a ship to get here obviously reduces the risk, but it’s not no risk.”
Air NZ said at the weekend that 21 per cent of its frontline workers are yet to have a single vaccine dose, but Hipkins said many of them were involved in transtasman flights, which were lower risk.
“There’s a lot of work going on just to follow through those last groups, but the ports certainly seem far too low. That’s an area where there’s definite need for more attention.
“We want to see higher rates.”
The Government also wants an estimated 50,000 household contacts of border workers to be fully vaccinated to create a vaccinated safety barrier at the border.
But only half of them have had at least one vaccine jab.
Figures released to the Weekend Herald also show about 1100 workers at the border who are not getting tested within the required timeframe.
Bloomfield also confirmed to the Weekend Herald a non-compliance rate of 4 per cent for MIQ workers getting tested regularly. This translates to about 180 MIQ workers.
The rate for non-MIQ border workers was 14 per cent – or about 930 workers.
The Health Ministry said about a third of them were less than four days overdue when they were tested, and because it took a few days to update the border worker testing register, some of them might well have been tested within the required timeframe.
PM on Operation Trojan Shield
On the major global police operation revealed today, Ardern said it was a “significant event” that would have an impact on the safety of the country.
New Zealand continued to have strong relations with its international counterparts. Crime increasingly had an international component which showed why governments had to continue to work internationally.
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