Government attempting to obtain small batch of Covid-19 vaccines early for border staff

Anna Whyte
Source: 1News

The Government is attempting to obtain a small batch of Covid-19 vaccines early, to protect at-risk workers. 

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said it would be dependent on whether the vaccine companies will supply that.

"We are exploring some possibilities as to whether or not we can get a smaller number of vaccines earlier to vaccinate our at-risk workers, our border workers, our managed isolation workers," he said today. 

"If we can do, we will be able to do that very quickly."

He would not go into any detail about the possibilities, calling it "obviously quite sensitive international negotiations".

"We have a number of advance purchase agreements, we’re also part of an international purchase agreement.

"New Zealand is one player in a very, very large game here in terms of vaccinations."

Hipkins earlier this week said as New Zealand currently has no community transmission of Covid-19, there was more time to thoroughly assess the vaccines, and although Medsafe would fast-track the process emergency approval was not needed. 

This was despite National's call to speed up the roll out to at-risk workers. 

National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop called it "disappointing the Government is only now trying to get a batch of vaccines for our frontline workers when this should have been a priority in the first place".

"If Singapore and other countries, many without Covid-19, are able to vaccinate their border workers immediately, why can’t we? So much for going hard and going early."

ACT's David Seymour said his party had been "saying for weeks that it’s not good enough for New Zealand to sit back and wait until the second quarter to get vaccinations underway".

"ACT hopes the latest negotiations to urgently get vaccines on our shores and into the arms of those most at risk are more fruitful than efforts to date," he said. 

"They need to be if we’re to reduce the chances of another costly lockdown."

Last month, it was announced border workers and essential staff will be the first to be vaccinated , with the expectation they will be vaccinated in the second quarter of 2021. 

The next group to be vaccinated will be high-risk frontline health workers and frontline public sector and emergency service staff. The third group would be older people and those with underlying health conditions, and also at risk health and social service workers.