Covid vaccine rollout revealed: What it means for you

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 10 Mar 2021, 1:20PM
Photo / File
Photo / File

Covid vaccine rollout revealed: What it means for you

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 10 Mar 2021, 1:20PM

The vaccine rollout is aiming to reach two million Kiwis within four months, with people at higher risk if they catch Covid-19 being the next in line behind border and healthcare workers.

Older people with relevant health conditions living in South Auckland, those in aged residential care homes or living in a whanau care setting will be offered the vaccine next.

Then from May Kiwis aged over 70, then those aged over 65 years old before the vaccine is offered to the remaining population in July.

The relevant health conditions to get early access to the vaccine include coronary heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease/chronic respiratory conditions, kidney disease, cancer and women who are pregnant.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield are outlining the vaccine roll-out plan and also giving a general Covid case update.

Covid case update

All contacts of the air crew member have returned negative results so far, with the remaining due tomorrow. There are no other locations of interest.

The outstanding gymgoer from the Valentine's Day outbreak who contact tracers weren't able to contact has now been tracked down and tested negative.

There are again no new cases of Covid-19 in the community and one new case in managed isolation.

Hipkins said he was "optimistic" about Auckland moving to level 1 before the weekend "but there are still some things to do".

The total number of active cases in New Zealand is 80. Our total number of confirmed cases is 2,054.

There are seven community testing locations available in Auckland today. These are in Wiri, Otara, Pakuranga Heights, Balmoral, New Lynn, Henderson and Northcote.

Vaccine rollout

The concrete vaccine rollout plan was revealed by the Government today after it announced on Monday it had secured enough Pfizer vaccine for everyone. 18,000 people have now received their first dose of Covid-19 and the fourth batch of about 64,000 Pfizer doses arrived this week.

The Pfizer vaccine has been shown to be 95 per cent effective and the first New Zealanders will become fully vaccinated next week.

Two more large-scale vaccination clinics will be opened soon to process the households of frontline border workers. The first opened in Auckland this week.

Cabinet is yet to decide when people heading overseas will be offered the vaccine and whether they'll be included with Group 2 or Group 3 but Hipkins said that would be a "high bar".

Hipkins wouldn't say whether Olympians would have to choose between being vaccinated and heading to Japan because Cabinet hadn't made those decisions yet.

Any New Zealander who gets vaccinated will still need to return from overseas through MIQ - including the Olympians - at this stage, said Hipkins.

An online look-up tool is also set to be launched so Kiwis can work out when they'll be offered jabs.

Hipkins said the target of the rollout was to next vaccinate those most at risk of getting and spreading Covid-19, and those most at risk of getting seriously sick from it.

Decisions are yet to be made how the general population will be prioritised or offered the jabs.

"Our plan is clear – first protect those most at risk of picking up the virus in their workplace, reducing the risk of future outbreaks and lockdowns and then protecting those most at risk of getting seriously ill if they get the virus," Hipkins said.

"Our sequencing plan provides certainty to the over two million Kiwis who can expect to start being vaccinated during the initial stages of our roll-out over the next three to four months.

"This is a balanced plan that prioritises reducing the chance of future outbreaks while protecting our elders, those with underlying health conditions and those who live in locations where we know outbreaks have occurred.

"We are asking all New Zealanders to get vaccinated. Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect your whānau, their lives and their livelihoods."

The vaccines will be free and the timings may change depending on vaccine deliveries.

Otago University epidemiologist Professor Nick Wilson said the selected groupings made sense.

"This pattern is fairly consistent with how New Zealand treats fully-subsidised influenza vaccinations for older age groups and those with underlying health conditions," he said.

"The area where I think this plan could have been improved upon would be putting all of the adult population of Counties-Manukau DHB into group two.

"That's because this population is particularly exposed to border failures by its proximity to Auckland Airport, and also all the MIQ facilities in South Auckland.

"And we've seen this risk with some of the recent border failures. The border is going to get safer as we vaccinate border workers - but we're going to continue to have failures."

Hipkins said about 40,000 courses - which is two jabs - will be allocated to Māori and Pacific providers who are working directly with older people and there will be a focus on South Auckland.

The workers and residents of aged residential care environments will be offered the vaccine in the facilities.

As well there will be Māori and Pacific providers, pop-up centres, GPs, medical and hauora centres, community clinics and larger scale events.

"An online tool that helps people find out when they can get the vaccine will be launched shortly. It describes the four broad groups and will take people through a series of questions to work out when it'll be their turn," Hipkins said.

"There are two further categories we are still looking at: one for people who may need to get a vaccine on compassionate grounds; and a national significance category, which could include groups who need a vaccine in order to represent New Zealand overseas.

"Decisions around these categories will be made at Cabinet in coming weeks."

There will not be any advantage for people whose surnames start with A as opposed to Z, said Hipkins - the logistics of vaccinating the general population will be organised through a booking system. There will also be vaccines offered in walk-in clinics.

There are still ongoing discussions with the Realm countries and Pacific neighbours about where they fit in the sequence and part of it will depend on which vaccine they opt to use.

Associate Professor Ben Gray, of Otago University's Department of Primary Health Care & General Practice, called the roll-out strategy " a great plan".

He said it protected those most at risk of picking up the virus in their workplace, reduced the risk of future outbreaks and lockdowns, and then protected those most at risk of getting seriously ill if they became infected.

"I think we have every reason to continue to have confidence in the Government and its advisors in managing this pandemic."

The priority groups

Group 1

The 50,000 border and MIQ workers, their household contacts and the people they live with. This started last month and the vast bulk will be completed this month, with at least one dose administered.

Group 2

Approximately 480,000 frontline workers and people living in high-risk settings. Starting with the 57,000 healthcare workers on community frontlines, and then moving through to healthcare workers protecting our most vulnerable and some priority populations.

And anyone who lives in the Counties Manukau DHB area who is 65 and older or who has an underlying health condition is also in Group 2.

This started in February and will continue through to May.

Group 3

Priority populations. Approximately 1.7 million people who are at higher risk if they catch Covid-19. This is planned to start in May.

Group 4

The remainder of the general population – approximately 2 million people. Starting from July.