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Revealed: Auckland DHBs didn't want lockdown vaccination pause

Nicholas Jones, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 18 Aug 2021, 12:00PM
Auckland Hospital (Photo / Edward Swift)
Auckland Hospital (Photo / Edward Swift)

Revealed: Auckland DHBs didn't want lockdown vaccination pause

Nicholas Jones, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 18 Aug 2021, 12:00PM

Health officials leading Covid-19 vaccination efforts across Auckland did not want the rollout paused because of the level 4 lockdown, the Herald understands.

Vaccination efforts had gathered momentum - treating almost 50,000 New Zealanders every day - before being paused for up to 48 hours because of the emergence of a community case of Covid-19 in Auckland.

When they re-start, drive-through vaccinations could be used to minimise in-person contact.

At last night's media conference announcing a three-day nationwide lockdown (seven days in Auckland and Coromandel) Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the vaccination drive needed to be paused to reduce the risk of the virus spreading.

However, the Herald understands the Northern Region Health Co-ordination Centre (NRHCC), set up by Auckland, Counties Manukau, Waitematā and Northland DHBs to run a regional response to Covid-19, did not recommend a pause to vaccination efforts.

Since those discussions four new community cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed, all with the highly infectious Delta strain and including a fully vaccinated nurse at Auckland City Hospital.

Last night, Ardern said it was important to protect the safety of both those coming in for vaccines and those administering them. The pause of up to 48 hours gives officials time to further consider potential changes, she said, including drive-through vaccination.

The latest outbreak could help drive vaccination coverage in the longer term, the Prime Minister said: "I think from what we've seen in Australia, it has caused a bit of an uptick in take-up. We want to use the opportunity if we can to safely vaccinate people in the interim."

Director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield told last night's media conference that the most important thing in the early stages of an outbreak was to minimise the risk of the virus spreading,

"The approach in Sydney and New South Wales to surge-up vaccinations is because they are using that to control a much bigger outbreak. But our teams have been working on ways to safely vaccinate - it may not take 48 hours, we will update that [today]."

In total, more than 2.5 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been administered and more than 934,000 people have received both doses.

Act Party leader David Seymour has criticised the decision to pause the vaccine rollout, saying New Zealand's relatively low coverage makes us a "sitting duck". National leader Judith Collins has said it is critical vaccines resume as soon as possible.

A spokesperson for the NRHCC referred Herald questions to the Ministry of Health, which is yet to respond.

Other vaccinations continue under lockdown

Meanwhile, health providers have been urged to continue other vaccinations under level 4.

The Immunisation Advisory Centre has sent out a message advising General Practice and other services that they should still be delivering scheduled vaccinations.

"There was an unfortunate drop-off in immunisation uptake last year with the lock down and we are very keen to avoid this again," the message reads. "Maintaining our vaccination coverage against all of the other vaccine-preventable diseases remains a vital step to help protect our communities from avoidable harm."

Dr Nikki Turner, director of the Immunisation Advisory Centre, recently told the Herald that more resourcing for "very stretched" childhood immunisation services was urgently needed, to avoid the sort of measles outbreak seen in 2019, which put children in intensive care before spreading to Samoa and taking 83 lives.

"Childhood vaccination rates are diving in many countries which are disrupted by Covid. If we drop our immunisation coverage we are at high risk of measles when we ease up on the border restrictions."

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