Govt will use 'every other tool' other than mandatory Covid jabs - Robertson

Source: 1 NEWS

The Government has dismissed any possibility of making Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory, despite public opinion largely in support of it. 

According to the latest 1News Colmar Brunton poll, 63 per cent of New Zealanders would support mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations, while 35 per cent were against it.

Of those supporting mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations, 44 per cent would be happy for all eligible New Zealanders over 12 to get the jab, with 17 per cent wanting all people over 18 to receive it.

Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson told Breakfast on Tuesday while he empathised with those supporting mandatory vaccinations, he didn't think it was necessary. 

Instead, he says the Government would be using "every other tool in the toolbox" to help drive up Covid-19 vaccination rates. 

"We're not gonna do that, and I think I can understand the motivation of people who responded that way because we all know just how critical vaccination is to us getting back that sense of normality. 

"The idea that we would go to a compulsory vaccination goes well beyond where New Zealand has ever been." 

Robertson added that he's been impressed with the country's steady uptake of the Covid-19 vaccine, which now rests at roughly 76 per cent of the eligible population now having had one dose or more. 

"So no, we're not going down that mandatory path, but we are going to use every other tool in the toolbox." 

Covid-19 modelling released by Te Pūnaha Matatini last week suggested the need for a vaccination rate of 90 per cent or higher to prevent Covid-19 from overwhelming New Zealand's health system. 

The data showed that if the Government was to settle with a roughly 80 per cent vaccination rate, New Zealand may see as many as 7000 people die of Covid-19 each year and even more hospitalised. 

Robertson says Kiwis are "doing pretty good" so far at volunteering for the vaccine but says everyone has a personal responsibility to encourage those close to them who may be hesitant about getting the jab.

"We're doing a pretty good job of people getting ourselves there with people just doing the right thing, reading the evidence, having a conversation and going ahead. 

"I think everybody has that responsibility to sit down and have a conversation with the person in our lives who may be a bit hesitant, not an anti-vaxxer but just a bit worried."

Robertson is "feeling positive" New Zealand is maintaining its grasp on the current Delta outbreak as daily case numbers seemingly plateau in the teens. 

He says public health officials are confident that clusters within the outbreak have been contained, with many daily infections due to household contacts. 

"We're feeling positive, but as we've said, there's a long tail with Delta, and that's what we're experiencing now." 

Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson says the Government is happy with the voluntary uptake of the jab.