Govt must act on boosters, kids vaccines and rapid tests

The government must urgently move to allow people vaccinated four months ago to get their third booster jab, bring forward the timeline for kids’ vaccines, and stop the perverse ban on rapid antigen testing, says National COVID-19 Response Spokesperson Chris Bishop.

“Kiwis will rightly be shocked that a DJ was able to enter New Zealand three times in one year to play a variety of music festivals while specialist ICU nurses and Kiwis stranded abroad have found it nearly impossible to enter New Zealand.

“The government now needs to make three urgent policy changes. As Chris Hipkins says, COVID-19 isn’t finished with us and our response needs to adjust.

“First, why do people have to wait until mid-January to go in for a booster after four months? Many people have contacted me who have passed four months since their second Pfizer vaccine and who are keen to get their third booster jab, but who have been turned away at vaccine clinics. This beggars belief given the clear public health guidance that a third booster dose offers much more protection against omicron.

“Chris Hipkins today stressed the importance of New Zealanders getting booster jabs over summer, but why is the government making it so hard to get them. People are trying to do the right thing but the government response can’t keep up.

“Second, the government needs to bring forward the timeline for kids’ vaccinations. New Zealand has already been regrettably slow off the mark on 5-11 year old vaccinations, and we need to speed the timeline up. Many parents are keen to get their kids vaccinated over summer and they should be able to.

“Third, the government’s absurd and perverse effective ban on rapid antigen tests must end. We are now in the situation that people will be able to get the safety of their recreational drugs tested at Rhythm and Alps this summer but not pick up a rapid COVID-19 test at the festival to see if they have COVID-19 or not.

“New Zealand has been far too slow at deploying rapid antigen tests in the community. They are widely available overseas at pharmacies and supermarkets, but in New Zealand the only way to get one is to either work at one of a select few companies or be unvaccinated.

“We need multiple types of testing techniques and technologies widely available in the community. This means saliva and nasal PCR tests widely available but it also means rapid antigen testing, which are cheaper and produce much faster results.”