National questions COVID vaccine rollout
While it is good news that New Zealand is working towards a vaccine roll out, Kiwis are still left with more questions than answers, says National’s COVID-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop.
With the additional of the two new vaccines, there is now four COVID-19 vaccines set to be available in New Zealand.
Prime MInister Jacinda Ardern says there will now be enough for every New Zealand.
National says there are still some questions that need to be answered.
“We still don’t know if the vaccine agreements New Zealand has entered into are binding and committed, the last thing we want to see is vaccines not reaching us because our contracts aren’t binding," says Bishop.
“There needs to be more detail around the progress on how to store the vaccine, especially for the Pfizer vaccine that needs to be stored in extremely cold temperatures. Freezers haven’t even arrived in the country despite knowing for months they will be needed."
COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says preparations are well in hand to gear up for what would be New Zealand’s largest ever immunisation programme.
“New Zealand has never before attempted an immunisation programme of this scale and complexity. We’re putting all of the building blocks in place to make it run as seamlessly as possible.
“The Ministry has also purchased nine large minus 80 degree Celsius freezers that can store more than 1.5 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. They are on track to arrive by the end of the year.”
Despite the Governments confidence, Bishop believes Kiwis will be cautious.
“Kiwis will be rightfully cautious given the Government’s history of rolling out vaccines. Meningitis, measles and the flu have all shown this Government to be hopeless with vaccinations. The Government better step up its game for the COVID-19 vaccine.
“The process for vaccinating all New Zealanders also raises questions. The Government has rightly said it intends to vaccinate border workers and essential staff first and then move on to the public, but what is the plan for this?
Hipkins says workforce planning to ensure NZ has enough vaccinators is well advanced.
"There are around 12,000 health professionals already able to administer vaccines and more will be trained."
Systems are on track to deliver the first vaccines to border workers in the second quarter of 2021.
Vaccinations will then be available to the general population in the second half of the year.
Bishop says those groups that were recommended to get the flu vaccine early this year are the same groups that should be next in line for the COVID-19 vaccine.
The four pre-purchase agreements secured to date are:
• 750,000 courses from Pfizer/BioNTech;
• 5 million courses from Janssen;
• 3.8 million courses from the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca; and
• 5.36 million courses from Novavax.