Morning Briefing March 9: Government reveals one vaccine for all

The Government opts to make Pfizer its primary Covid vaccine provider, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle rain bombshells on the royal family, and is cannabis reform back on the agenda?

Pfizer vaccines. Source: Associated Press

The Government says it’s purchased an additional 8.5 million doses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine, which should lead to an overall simpler vaccination programme.

Having already ordered 1.5 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, the new order means there will now be enough to vaccinate every New Zealander with it, avoiding the need for a multi-vaccine rollout. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the decision to make Pfizer New Zealand’s primary vaccine provider is because it’s been shown to be around 95 per cent effective at preventing symptomatic infection. She says it’s likely people will need to be vaccinated every year.

National supports the Pfizer move but is now calling for more transparency from the Government about its vaccine schedule, with reports the Black Caps are attempting to move to the front of that queue.

The Pfizer vaccine deal was revealed just hours after confirmation an Air New Zealand flight attendant got the jab days before testing positive for Covid-19.

Crucial genome sequencing results on this new case are expected back today, however officials believe the crew member was exposed to the virus overseas and already infectious before being vaccinated.

Vaccinologists say it’s not possible she caught Covid-19 from the vaccine as it doesn’t contain any live, dead or deactivated virus. Full protection isn’t seen until at least a week after the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. 

This new case has, however, ignited calls for a closer look at why air staff have different isolation rules to the passengers they’re looking after.

Air New Zealand says the flight attendant did everything right by the current rules, but epidemiologist Michael Baker is now calling for the Government to enact stronger regulations for airline crew. 

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Royal revelations shock viewers

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle rained bombshell after bombshell on the royal family during their tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey yesterday.

Markle admitted to Winfrey she didn’t “fully understand what the job was” when she married Prince Harry and realised soon after her wedding that the institution of the royal family wouldn’t protect her.

Markle also revealed racism was an issue when she was pregnant with her son, Archie, saying a royal family member had a conversation with Prince Harry “about how dark his skin might be when he was born”.

The couple wouldn’t reveal who made the remark, however Winfrey has since confirmed it wasn’t the Queen nor Prince Philip.

Markle said she was also stunned when she was told Archie wouldn’t be a prince and would therefore not receive palace security. 

Markle told Winfrey the breaking point came when she began having suicidal thoughts and Buckingham Palace prevented her from getting help, which is when she and her husband decided to step aside from their royal duties.

Prince Harry told Winfrey he felt “trapped” in the royal family before Markle helped free him. 

While yesterday’s interview was heavy with shocking revelations, there were some positive moments, including Markle saying the Queen “was always wonderful” to her.

She and Prince Harry also revealed they were married a few days before their blockbuster wedding ceremony – and told Winfrey their baby due later this year is a girl.

Cannabis reform back on agenda?

A new poll has found most Kiwis support decriminalising cannabis.

The online survey released by the Helen Clark Foundation found cannabis legalisation or decriminalisation is now favoured by the majority of all Labour, National, Green, and ACT supporters.

The 2020 referendum on legalising cannabis saw 48.4 per cent of voters back the move then. Soon after that result, the Government said no further efforts to decriminalise cannabis would follow, however Helen Clark Foundation executive director Kathy Errington says the results of this week’s poll indicate a broad mandate for change with cannabis laws. 

GPs struggling in Covid's wake

A record number of general practitioners are facing burnout with the pressures of Covid-19 driving many away from the job.

A new report from the Royal New Zealand College of GPs has revealed more doctors resigned last year than ever before. Figures show almost half of GPs are considering quitting in the next 10 years.

The results of the survey are being presented to the Minister of Health this week, with GPs calling on the Government for better support. 

Concern over quad bikes

New figures show quad bike accidents are costing lives and costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in support payments for those who are injured.

While the number of quad bike injuries has almost halved over the past decade, they still saw ACC paying out more than $18 million last year.

The organisation says quad bikes remain a significant risk on farms and are encouraging farmers to take up a subsidy to purchase and install crush protection devices.

Other news of note this morning:

- Tens of thousands of business owners may inadvertently be operating with non-compliant buildings following a Fair Go investigation into fire exits.

- Officials say police are hunting down a contact of a recent Covid-19 case, who still hasn't been in touch with them.

- New South Wales is celebrating 50 consecutive days without a community case of Covid-19.

- Official figures show pedestrians and cyclists are disproportionately injured and killed on Wellington's roads.

- A person has been stabbed after a man allegedly robbed at least two people at knifepoint in the Christchurch suburb of Waltham yesterday.

- The messy byproduct of backyard beekeeping is causing a stink in urban areas. 

- And two pods of incredibly rare whales have visited Antarctica's Scott Base, delighting Kiwis staying on the icy continent.

And finally...

Laura Daniel. Source: Seven Sharp

Have you ever looked at the diary in your Covid tracer app and thought “Oh my God, do I really only ever go to the supermarket and the kids’ school every day?” (Guilty.)

Well, Seven Sharp reckons the app has more benefits than the obvious “help stop a deadly virus running rampant through the community” one – it could also help you lead a much more glamorous lifestyle...