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Covid-19 vaccine rollout ‘critical’ to protect Pacific nations, but details are lacking — vaccine expert

A leading vaccine expert says vaccinating Pacific Island nations against Covid-19 will be “really critical” to protect “vulnerable communities”, but there’s little detail currently about how New Zealand will help its neighbours.

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Professor Graham Le Gros says he’s yet to see details about how New Zealand will help its Pacific neighbours roll out the jabs. Source: Breakfast

The New Zealand Government in December announced it had earmarked $75 million to “support Pacific and global vaccine access and roll-out”. 

New Zealand aimed to have sufficient doses of Covid-19 vaccines to cover its Realm – Tokelau, Niue and Cook Islands – as well as Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu, should their governments wish to take it up. 

But Vaccine Alliance director and professor Graham Le Gros said people were waiting on the New Zealand Government to explain how it would distribute vaccines to those nations. The Alliance is Government-funded, and brings together vaccine experts and manufacturers. 

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Starting tomorrow, the group will set about getting the nation’s 12,000 border workers vaccinated. Source: Breakfast

“How are they going to do it? Which vaccines? How are nations able to respond? 

“Do they have the capacity? Do they have the infrastructure to do that with the Pfizer vaccine [which requires ultra-low temperatures]?

“We’ve not seen any details yet,” Le Gros said. 

“I really think that everyone would feel a lot calmer once those plans start to become available.”

He said vaccinating the Pacific is "really critical".

“Just think about how vulnerable those communities [are] out there in the Pacific."

Today marks the start of New Zealand’s largest vaccine rollout in history, with 100 Covid-19 vaccinators getting their Pfizer jabs today.

The country’s border workers will be vaccinated from tomorrow.

Not everyone is keen to get a Covid-19 jab, however, with fewer than two out of five Kiwis saying they would get vaccinated. It comes alongside Ministry of Health research revealing Māori and Pasifika are less likely to get vaccinated.

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University of Auckland vaccinologist Helen Petousis-Harris gives her thoughts. Source: Seven Sharp

Le Gros said it was about “communication, communication, communication” with people who were still deciding whether they’d get vaccinated. 

“We all want to play our role … We need to be informed if we are to play that role well,” he said.

“We don’t want to have a bullying culture where you’re just, ‘You must get your vaccine otherwise you’re going to sink New Zealand.’”