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Covid buses will start operating from this morning to boost vaccinations in harder to reach parts of the Auckland community.
The new initiative comes as experts warn the only way for New Zealand to avoid lockdowns going forward is to have at least 90 per cent of the eligible population vaccinated.
The first buses will be blessed this morning in Māngere before hitting the road and going to areas where vaccination numbers are low or where communities are finding it harder to access the services.
The six buses - on loan to the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre - will act like pop-up vaccination clinics with Pukekohe one of the first areas a bus will visit this afternoon.
Earlier this week Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern asked for names for the "Mr Whippy"-style vaccine bus service and has now narrowed it down to four favourites - Jabba Waka, Shot Bro, Jabbin' Wagon, Vaxi Taxi.
High vaccination rate needed
Covid-19 modeller Professor Michael Plank told Newstalk ZB this morning his modelling showed that reopening New Zealand with 70-80 per cent vaccination would still leave the country vulnerable.
As of yesterday, 38 per cent of New Zealand's eligible population were fully vaccinated and 70 per cent had received at least one dose.
"It will be difficult to avoid large scale health impacts - that could include tens of thousands of hospitalisations and potentially thousands of deaths.
"So we really do need to try and get that vaccination coverage...into the 90s" which would make the situation more manageable, he said.
Plank believed it was possible to reach the target of having 90 per cent of the eligible population vaccinated.
"That's the way to reduce the health impacts that will come when we open up our borders and we inevitably do start to get outbreaks of Covid-19."
The United Kingdom had reasonably high vaccine coverage, he said. "But they also still have a lot of people dying." Most deaths were in older people "but not exclusively so", he said. There were an "enormous" number of people in Britain in hospital including a number of younger people.
But epidemiologist Rod Jackson thought the number needed to even be higher to avoid lockdowns.
Jackson said 95 per cent of over 12 year olds needed to be vaccinated as that still left 700,000 children under 12 and 250,000 people who were unvaccinated.
Over the next few months there needed to be a focus on moving the vaccine hesitant people to being vaccinated, rather than on the small number of anti-vaxxers who he didn't think should be given any oxygen, he said.
In his view, it was only time until Delta came back and there were only two ways to deal with it - lockdowns or vaccines. "My message to New Zealanders is if you hate lockdowns get a shot, if you really hate lockdowns get two."
He said he had asked colleagues in Ireland how they had achieved such a high vaccination rate - nearing 90 per cent - and the answer was because they were "scared sh**less". People had got the jab due to the large number of people who had died there from Covid.
"If you've got a spread like you get with Delta, it's basically a super spreading virus, you don't even need a super spreading setting, it's a super spreading virus and no system can cope with an outbreak of Delta.
He said you only needed to look at Sydney who had been locked down for 11 weeks and were "finally getting some sort of control". "It's scary, scary stuff."
Meanwhile the number of people newly infected with Covid in the community has dipped again in the past few days with 14 cases recorded yesterday and 15 the day before.