Government delayed vaccine rollout by two months

Leaked internal documents from the Ministry of Health show New Zealand’s entire stock of Pfizer vaccine was due to be delivered by the end of September but the Government consciously slowed down the deliveries, National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

“A 21 May document from the Ministry of Health, leaked to National, shows the Ministry expected 650,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to be delivered per week from July onwards, with delivery completed by the end of September.

“This is consistent with Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins’ public comments that all of our expected Pfizer vaccines would arrive by the end of September.

“Somewhere between May and now, while Delta was in our MIQ and causing countries around the world to lock down, the Government decided to slow down delivery of vaccines and slow down our rollout, an inexplicable decision given the nature of Delta and threat we were facing.

“Mr Hipkins has even admitted the Government talked to Pfizer about getting delivery in October and November to ‘smooth the deliveries’.

“Had the Government gone with Pfizer’s original delivery schedule we’d have received 7.3 million doses by 1 September. Instead we administered just under 4 million.

“Delaying our supply has had a massive impact on our vaccine rollout and has meant the only option we have to combat Delta is a long lockdown.

“When the Delta outbreak began New Zealand had the slowest vaccine rollout in the OECD with just 20 per cent of eligible Kiwis fully vaccinated.

“As the Prime Minister has finally acknowledged, our level of vaccination coverage matters as it impacts how severe our restrictions have to be to deal with Covid-19. Modelling shows the Auckland lockdown would’ve been a lot shorter had our vaccination rate been higher when Delta hit in August.

“The Government was meandering along until Delta hit, then our vaccination drive ramped up massively and we started hitting 90,000 doses per day.

“The demand from New Zealanders wanting to get vaccinated as always been there, what they needed was a competent and delivery-focused Government trying to get as many vaccinations on shore and in arms as quickly as possible.

“Delaying our rollout is a public policy failure of epic proportions, and it put lives at risk.”

The Ministry of Health document is attached here.