National launches plan to supercharge vaccination

With the Delta variant of Covid-19 having well and truly arrived in New Zealand, the National Party is calling on the Government to supercharge the vaccination rollout throughout the country with a new strategy, says Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins.

“New Zealand has been the slowest in the OECD to rollout the vaccine and the Government’s negligent approach has created vulnerabilities that Delta has exposed.

“What we need to do now, while we battle Delta in lockdown, is urgently reset our vaccination strategy and supercharge it to vaccinate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. We should be aiming for at least 100,000 vaccination doses administered per day, every day.

“We also need to target our frontline border and high-risk workers, younger people who are vectors for the virus, and accelerate delivery of the vaccine to 12-15-year-olds.

“A short-term elimination strategy can only work in tandem with a far more aggressive and accelerated vaccination programme if we are to avoid future lockdowns and get New Zealand back on an even footing with the outside world.”

National’s vaccination plan is called ‘Vulnerable and Vectors’. Spearheaded by Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop, National’s plan has five main components.

1. Urgently vaccinate the vulnerable

All frontline workers most exposed to Covid while lockdowns at levels 3 and 4 are ongoing must receive priority vaccination. This includes supermarket workers and healthcare workers, as well as our hard-working New Zealand police. It is appalling that only 40 per cent of police officers have been vaccinated – more prisoners than police have been vaccinated. Police officers are out there enforcing lockdown rules but most don’t have the protection of vaccination.

It is imperative we vaccinate remaining frontline workers at our border and in high-risk settings and remove those from the frontline who aren’t vaccinated. It is scandalous that, seven months into the vaccine rollout, more than a third of all frontline port workers still aren’t vaccinated.

We also need to quickly complete vaccination of people in groups 2 and 3 – our most vulnerable Kiwis. Our plan tasks GPs with going through practice rolls and identifying who should be getting a vaccine. They know their patients and have the relationships to get people getting vaccinated, but GPs have been woefully under-utilised in the vaccine rollout so far.

2. Vaccinate the vectors

National suggests a higher priority for 20-30-year-olds. The experience from overseas, and now here in New Zealand, is that Delta spreads rapidly among younger people who are more socially active and mobile. Two-thirds of cases in the current outbreak are in people aged under 30. Younger people are vectors for Covid and it makes sense to target people in this age group. Only yesterday (25 August) was eligibility to book extended to 30-year-olds.

We must administer the vaccine to 12-15-year-olds in schools before the end of the year. The Government took two months to affirm Medsafe’s decision to approve extending the rollout to this age group and there are no plans to vaccinate children in schools before the end of the year. This is a massive wasted opportunity and planning should begin immediately to vaccinate children in the settings where they spend many hours each week.

3. Supercharge the rollout

New Zealand has been woefully slow at rolling out the vaccine – the slowest in the developed world – even though we were told we were at the front of the queue. We need a target of at least 100,000 vaccination doses administered per day from here on.

To achieve this we need to make much more use of GPs and pharmacists. Only 12 out of 400 pharmacists in Auckland have been “onboarded” into the system and there are multiple reports of GPs waiting many weeks to be approved to give vaccinations. GPs have always been critical to the rollout, yet the Government has ignored them. GPs and pharmacists need to be embraced and encouraged to do what they do best – serve their community.

It is imperative we raise urgently vaccination rates among Māori and Pasifika and as Auckland City’s Manukau councillor Efeso Collins says, we need a much more grassroots approach to partner with civil society and work with churches and community groups.

4. Plan for the future

New Zealand must immediately order vaccine boosters. It beggars belief that New Zealand has still not ordered any Pfizer boosters. Meanwhile, the United States has announced it will start its booster programme in September, while Australia and other countries have already ordered millions of doses. As it stands, New Zealand will be at the back of the queue once again.

5. Get moving on ‘true’ vaccine passports

There are multiple reports reaching National MPs of New Zealanders who have had the double dose of Pfizer vaccine but are unable to prove it to overseas authorities.

Vaccine passports are inevitable. It is clear the Government has dropped the ball on this critical component of our plan to reconnect with the world. The urgent development of a vaccine passport that can be properly relied on overseas is critical.

Note: By 'vaccine passports' we simply mean a certification of vaccination that will allow you to travel to countries which require proof of vaccination and return home without having to stay in MIQ. It is to enable travel, not to impose further restrictions. If Kiwis choose to travel in the future we want them to be able to do so.