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A taste of summer freedom. (Getty Images)
A taste of summer freedom. (Getty Images)

The BulletinOctober 26, 2021

Saving the New Zealand summer

A taste of summer freedom. (Getty Images)
A taste of summer freedom. (Getty Images)

Vaccination levels will need to increase rapidly for the entire country to reopen (for the fully vaccinated) by Christmas, Justin Giovannetti writes in The Bulletin.

The race for Christmas. The prime minister told Stuff over the long weekend that she hopes fully vaccinated Aucklanders carrying vaccine passports will be able to travel in and out of the city before the end of the year. Until vaccination levels climb, the hard border cutting the region off from the rest of the country will remain in place. Jacinda Ardern unveiled a new traffic light system on Friday that will eventually replace the alert levels. This helpful explainer from The Spinoff’s Alice Neville is worth a read if you haven’t done so already.

Central to the new plan is a 90% double vaccinated target for all DHBs. It’ll be a confusing few weeks or months before the entire country finds itself back on the same Covid-19 alert system. Auckland is working its way through a bespoke level three and it could graduate to the new traffic light system first. To get to a long promised “classic Kiwi summer” for everyone, hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders still need to get jabbed. In some parts of the country that seems relatively straightforward, in others the sprint to 90% looks more like a crawl. To help increase vaccination levels, the government’s new traffic light plan will introduce permanent restrictions on the unvaccinated once it is adopted.

Getting to the high vaccination levels is now the focus for a green light. Auckland’s three DHBs are expected to hit the target around the end of November, at which point the city could move to the red level. Jo Moir reports in Newsroom that the government is still considering adopting a national freedom day if the vaccination target fails. Moir also revealed that there was a push at cabinet for a separate 90% target for Māori that was ultimately dropped.

Where the conversation is headed. The overall rate of vaccination and the number of doses going to Māori and Pacific peoples is likely to continue to dominate headlines this week. There’s a sliver of hope now, especially in Auckland. However, there’s also concern that 90% overall might not be enough. Here are two experts explaining why:

“It is certainly possible for Auckland, and other regions, to reach the 90% target by Christmas. Whether we do or not depends on details about the last remaining people to get vaccinated–things like how many people are going to refuse vaccination and how easy access is for people who might be willing to get vaccinated but haven’t had good access or incentives until now,” wrote Dion O’Neale, the principal investigator for Te Pūnaha Matatini.

“At the very least, vaccination target details for Aotearoa New Zealand needed to include at least 90 to 95% full vaccinations for Māori and Pacific peoples, to help keep all of our most vulnerable communities safe from Covid-19, and that includes keeping our children and young people safe,” wrote Dianne Sika-Paotonu, an immunologist at the University of Otago.

“Leaving any of our most vulnerable behind and unprotected, given the adverse health impact already seen for vulnerable groups in Aotearoa New Zealand, will have consequences that will be far reaching and will speak to generations to come,” she wrote in a comment for the Science Media Centre.

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