Nurses prepare Covid-19 vaccines in Norway, which has paused the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine (Photo: Getty Images)

Extra doses arrive as vaccine programme breaks records

After a slow start, NZ is now rolling out doses at record speed and more than half the population has had a jab, Justin Giovannetti writes in The Bulletin.

By the time you read this a shipment of 250,000 extra vaccine doses should have arrived in New Zealand from Spain. As RNZ reports, the top-up means the country’s vaccination programme won’t need to be slowed down this month. There’s been an unprecedented surge in recent weeks as demand for jabs soared, with nearly a million doses administered over the past fortnight. The prime minister, who counts Spanish president Pedro Sánchez as one of her close friends on the world stage, said another delivery from a second country was still in negotiations, but details are expected next week. The Spanish deal wasn’t a swap, it was a simple purchase. No price was disclosed, but Ardern said the deal was in “good faith”. She then clarified to people who hadn’t caught her verbal wink that she was trying to imply it was a good deal.

Gracias España.

After a very slow start, New Zealand now has a record-setting immunisation programme. New Zealand’s Covid-19 vaccine programme was slow out the gate, months behind countries in Europe and North America. As recently as last month, Aotearoa was still the least vaccinated place among rich countries. That’s changed rapidly. Stuff’s Henry Cooke has found that New Zealand is now vaccinating about 1.5% of its population daily, faster than any of the countries we compare ourselves to, and is powering up the list of vaccinated countries.

More than half the population has had one dose, surpassing Australia. With all 10 million doses on order expected to be delivered by Pfizer next month, New Zealand could soon overtake the United States for percentage of the population jabbed. However it’s unclear when, as director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield warned earlier this week that the overall rate of vaccination is now slowing as some parts of the country are running out of people to immunise.

Press play and watch the vaccination race on Our World in Data. Don’t stop before you reach the end.

There remains uneven vaccination rates across New Zealand. Māori leaders told RNZ that a different approach to the vaccine drive is urgently needed to reach young Māori as a gap in immunisation levels has proven stubborn. Expanding the programme to everyone over the age of 12, allowing entire families to go at once, hasn’t led to a boost in levels. Māori between 20 and 34 years old have been vaccinated in far fewer numbers than other ethnicities in the country. Despite nearly a year of warnings that this might happen, it’s unclear how to change things. Two Labour ministers, Peeni Henare and Willie Jackson, have said they are disappointed with low uptake but think it could change in the coming weeks.

A cautionary tale has emerged in Singapore. Vaccines are an incredibly powerful tool in the fight against Covid-19, but delta has demonstrated that even small pockets of the unvaccinated can allow the virus to thrive. In recent weeks Singapore undertook its pivot to living with the virus, by relaxing restrictions and reopening to the world. Despite nearly 80% of the population vaccinated, over 1300 cases were reported last week and the reopening plan has been stopped, reports Authorities are now trying to contain the virus with contact tracing, but have warned that they might need to reimpose restrictions.

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