Pressure on Govt to speed up Covid-19 vaccinations, despite World Health Organization urging caution

There’s still pressure to roll out New Zealand’s Covid-19 vaccination programme more quickly from the Opposition despite advise from the World Health Organization (WHO) to not rush the process.

Dr Helen Harris from WHO told 1 NEWS that New Zealand should not rush its vaccination programme but instead advises the Government to take its time and roll out the vaccine properly.

“It’s a lot more than simply getting the vials, getting the needles. There are many things that have to be done very well at every point in the chain for a really effective vaccination programme.”

Highlighting the success of New Zealand at controlling the virus, Harris says if New Zealand wants to continue to stamp out Covid-19 and protect the health system the roll out needs to be meticulously planned.

“Don’t expect it to be super-duper fast.”

Her comments come after National Party leader Judith Collins accused the Government of acting too slowly, saying the vaccine roll out should be fast-tracked.

When asked if the party still stands by Collins' comments, National's Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop said "absolutely".

"I think most New Zealanders will be quite surprised to learn that we are well behind the rest of the world when it comes to the vaccine roll out," he told 1 NEWS.

"You've now got Samoa, for example, rolling out the vaccine to border workers from February. We're not planning on rolling out the vaccine to people working at our frontline of our response until April or later.

"It's just simply unacceptable."

Bishop said the vaccine should be rolling out to managed isolation and quarantine workers, as well as those working at airports, now.

"These are people who are literally on the frontline for us in protecting us from Covid-19 and putting themselves in harms way and we should be rolling out the vaccine to them."

He said being Covid-free in the community was "not a reason why we should be delaying the rollout of a vaccine in New Zealand".

Read more here
Don't rush the Covid-19 vaccine rollout, WHO warns New Zealand

As well, the ACT Party would like to see a much faster roll out of the vaccines and wants the Government to announce when the vaccines will be coming to New Zealand.

“Why can’t our Government be more specific about when the vaccines will arrive on our shore?” ACT leader David Seymour said today.

“We know Australia’s vaccination programme will be up and running in mid-to-late February. Why is a country like New Zealand looking like it might be one of the last developed countries in the world to begin a vaccination programme?”

However, the World Health Organization believes New Zealand doesn’t need to rush, like other countries currently battling an out of control virus.

Read more here
Transmission of Covid-19 from those vaccinated could still be possible, warns WHO

“If you have the luxury of low transmission you can also have the luxury of planning your roll out of the vaccine very well and that’s very, very important.”

Earlier this week the Government said MedSafe is working on streamlining its approval process for vaccines and wouldn’t be rushing the process through.

“It’s critical the public has confidence in the safety of vaccines,” a Government spokesperson said.

“We expect to be in a position to start vaccinating front line workers from April 2021, and the public in the second half of the year.

“At this stage, based on the our current situation, our first priority will be to vaccinate border workers and essential staff who are at the greatest risk of getting Covid-19.”