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Ardern says any Covid-19 vaccination target will be set by experts, not political parties

The Prime Minister says any Covid-19 vaccination target will be set by experts, not political parties, amid calls from National to set one at 70 per cent of the adult population. 

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Jacinda Ardern says a single number wouldn’t be enough, amid calls from National to have at least 70 per cent of adults vaccinated against Covid-19. Source: 1 NEWS

In response to the National Party, Jacinda Ardern said a target was being developed, but it won’t be a single number like the Opposition had called for. 

“It’s not enough just to say we need a certain percentage of the population vaccinated. If you’ve got a really high percentage, for instance, in one city, but another it is vastly lower, then that means you run the risk of still having community outbreaks in those areas,” she said. 

Instead, she said, the Government was “putting more work” into developing what adequate protection would look like across the country. 

“We’re moving from a barricade through our border controls to us individually carrying our own armour so we can, if there is an outbreak, break a chain of transmission.”

Earlier today, Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop said New Zealand was only one of a few countries in the OECD not to have a vaccination target, and the Government’s reluctance to set one “suggests the Government doesn’t want to be held to account on this”. 

“Almost all countries are setting a vaccination target – usually 70 per cent of the adult population – and a date for achieving that target. New Zealand isn’t doing this either,” he said.

“We should be setting an ambitious target and going for it. A target will make sure the health system is focused, and means vaccination progress can be meaningfully tracked.”

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The Opposition says New Zealand is one of only a few OECD countries who don’t have such a target. Source: 1 NEWS

The World Health Organization said it wasn't yet known how many people needed to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to begin inducing herd immunity, as that number varied for each disease. 

However, Ardern argued the Government’s approach would “increase the accountability” because it recognised a “number alone is not enough” to be sure protection was adequate.

“We have to know what success looks like. We absolutely accept that. 

“But, we’ve already had the experts like [Director of the Immunisation Advisory Centre] Nikki Turner and [the Ministry of Health’s chief science advisor] Ian Town say if you just pick one number, that won’t be enough to tell us whether or not we have done what’s required,” she said.

Ardern said Governments around the world were also still waiting for more evidence about whether Covid-19 vaccines could significantly reduce Covid-19 transmission. 

She said while there was ample evidence that the vaccine reduced the severity of illness and the symptoms someone experienced, “what we don’t know yet is the degree when you’ve been vaccinated you might still risk passing it on to others”.

So, in the meantime, people entering the country would still be required to enter managed isolation for 14 days even if they were vaccinated against Covid-19, she said.