No urgency on port worker vaccinations

The Government needs to explain why it hasn’t acted sooner to increase the uptake of vaccinations against Covid-19 at our ports, National’s Covid-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

“The Prime Minister says ‘there has always been a sense of urgency’ about vaccinating port workers, but her Government is not mandating they be vaccinated under the Public Health Orders until September 30.

“This is seven months after Group 1, of which port workers are a part of, began vaccinations.

“Back in February the Prime Minister said all frontline border workers would be vaccinated within two to three weeks. In April she said that ‘time had run out’ and unvaccinated frontline workers would need to be moved to low-risk roles.

“Yet here we are in mid-August and 36 per cent of all frontline port workers have not had a single vaccination, with the numbers at 60 per cent in the Bay of Plenty DHB and 80 per cent in the East Coast.

“I also understand that Covid-19 Minister Chris Hipkins’ claim that all port workers have been able to get a vaccination since February is incorrect. I have been told some frontline port workers in some DHBs have been turned away when they tried to get a vaccine, because they were not considered part of Group 1A.

“It’s clear that port workers have been pushed down the queue because of our slow vaccine rollout – earlier in the year there simply wasn’t enough vaccination doses to go around.

“The Government has dropped the ball on vaccinations at our ports, leaving a major vulnerability in our Covid-19 response.

“We need an urgent plan to increase vaccination rates in our ports.”