Govt invests $1.4b for vaccination programme to keep jab free for all NZers

Publish Date
Wed, 19 May 2021, 1:04PM

Govt invests $1.4b for vaccination programme to keep jab free for all NZers

Publish Date
Wed, 19 May 2021, 1:04PM

A New Zealander has died after getting a Covid-19 vaccination, but the Ministry of Health says there is no direct link.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed a death had been reported to the Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring (Carm) at today's 1pm update.

Hipkins said the information provided so far suggested the death wasn't linked to the vaccine.

The death was being investigated by the coroner. "That doesn't mean it is linked to the vaccine. There can be other good explanations," Hipkins said.

$1.4 billion vaccination fund

Hipkins also announced a $1.4 billion vaccination fund over two years will ensure vaccines are free for every New Zealander.

He confirmed what director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield has already revealed: almost $1 billion has allocated for vaccine purchase agreements.

Of the rest of the fund, Hipkins said $66.3 million is for specialist vaccine equipment, including storage facilities and transport, while the remaining $356.9 million is for technology to support the roll-out, funding for DHBs, Medsafe support, and for community immunisation centres.

"In addition to the $1.4 billion, $30 million has gone into vaccine research and the potential for domestic manufacturing, and $75 million for Official Development Assistance funding to support Pacific and global vaccine access," Hipkins said.

Hipkins said charging anyone for the vaccine had never been considered, because it's important to have uptake as high as possible.

It was hard to say how much vaccines would cost in the future, but they were "likely to get cheaper, and we're likely to get better at it".

"We don't know how many shots of the vaccine people might need. I don't think it would cost this much on a yearly basis."

Hipkins said no decisions have been made about keeping the vaccine free on an ongoing basis.

Trying to work out a per-head cost was meaningless, he said, because there were still many unknowns, including how many people would be vaccinated and how many doses would be used.

Hipkins said he had "a little bit of anxiety" if the rollout had to scale back before bigger vaccine supplies arrive.

"Beyond July, there's some question marks around exactly what dates what quantities are arriving. Those discussions are literally happening as we speak."

A "significant disruption to the supply chain" would likely lead to a delay in the rollout, he said.

He was also nervous about ramping up the rollout in the second half of the year.

He said there were three main IT systems, including the vaccination register, which was working well, the inventory management showing where doses are, which he said was also working well.

The booking system is being trialled at the moment. "The feedback I've had is that the trial is going well."

The booking system included a recall system to let people know when to get their second dose.

"These systems are being developed in a hurry, and there might be a need for adjustments as they go live."

Six new Covid cases in MIQ

There were six new Covid cases in managed isolation to report today and none in the community.

One of the new cases in MIQ flew in from India on May 14 and tested positive to Covid on their day three routine testing, while two others flew in from Qatar on May 14 and 15 and tested positive on days two and three of their MIQ stay. The other three MIQ cases arrived from Bahrain, Turkey and Maldives and tested positive on their day 0 routine testing.

A historical case reported yesterday as being in a recent returnee in managed isolation had now been reclassified as not being a case.

That meant the total number of active cases in New Zealand today was 25. The country's total number of confirmed cases was 2302.

There will also be an update on Covid-19 test results from wastewater in the Wellington region issued later this afternoon.

Since the start of the year, there had been 60 historical cases, out of a total of 486 cases.

Vaccination rollout update

As of midnight last night, 474,435 vaccination doses have been administered, including more than 152,000 second doses.

About 14,000 vaccine doses were administered yesterday, and the latest numbers continue to track ahead of the delivery target, Hipkins said.

The 500,000 doses mark will be reached in the next 48 hours.

Hipkins said 5358 people had completed the vaccination training programme so far.

Discussions were under way about the five million Janssen vaccines that New Zealand had purchased, including whether the 3 million doses in the second purchase round could be changed, Hipkins said.

Vaccines that were part of agreed purchase agreements included some that will be donated, including AstraZeneca to Fiji.

One vaccine other than Pfizer was likely to be available later this year as a contingency in case Pfizer supplies were held up, but it would still depend on Medsafe approval.

Some of the delay in getting approval for AstraZeneca, he said, was around manufacturing rather than efficacy.

The High Court decision that found the vaccine approval was legally questionable wasn't delaying any of the Medsafe processes, he said. A bill to make give the approval legal certainty will be rushed through Parliament today.

Hipkins said many countries have had demand plateau at around 60 per cent, which, if it happened in New Zealand, would create a lot of work at the end of year to boost overall vaccination.

"We've all got a role to play in doing the right thing."