Hipkins’ vaccine supply claim dodges fact – we could and should have got it earlier

Chris Hipkins’ claim there was nothing New Zealand could have done to secure Pfizer vaccines any earlier flies in the face of hard facts, says National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop.

“Mr Hipkins might not like to admit it, but in his interview on Q&A this morning he sidestepped the following facts:

“First, the Government was slow to sign an advance purchase agreement with Pfizer – meaning New Zealand was the 29th slowest out of the 38 countries in the OECD to get in line.

“Second, it was slow to gain approval the Pfizer vaccine for use in New Zealand. It wasn’t approved here until 3 February 2021.

“Third, New Zealand’s first purchase order was only raised on January 29 this year. Other countries had administered tens of millions of doses by that point.

“Fourth, there’s been the refusal to offer any incentive payments for early delivery.

“How can Mr Hipkins say there was nothing we could have done to get doses of vaccine into New Zealand earlier when the Government didn’t even offer?  It has been reported that an extra $50 million could have secured supply of doses much earlier, which would have prevented our supply shortages earlier this year.

“New Zealand’s vaccination rollout is shamefully and negligently slow. We were told we would be at the front of the queue for vaccination, but we are the slowest in the OECD and have been from the start.

“And now we find ourselves in another nationwide lockdown – a lockdown caused by the Government’s lack of urgency in protecting New Zealanders.

“The Government’s complacency and inability to ensure supply and delivery of the vaccine has made us all sitting ducks; completely vulnerable to the Delta variant when it inevitably got into the community.”