Opinion: New Zealand needs vaccine goals and fast

Andrew Macfarlane
Source: 1News

If New Zealand wants to end the need for lockdowns, it’s time for it to learn a lesson or two from New South Wales.

People arrive to be vaccinated for Covid-19 at the Qudos Bank Arena NSW Health Vaccination Centre in Sydney, Australia.

While many have argued the Australian state should’ve locked down earlier than it did, NSW has absolutely nailed the vaccination rollout.

Just last weekend, I was sitting in a pub with a group of vaccinated mates. We’d been to lunch earlier in the day, and I’d been able to pop into the shops to buy some new clothes.

They’re freedoms that felt like they were extremely far off a month ago.

It’s all down to the government sending a clear message: Get a jab, or stay in lockdown.

When New South Wales’ former Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced the state’s vaccine targets, they were met with surprise.

She’d decided that when 70 per cent of eligible residents were double-dosed with either Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca, restrictions would be somewhat eased for the vaccinated.

I remember speaking with respected epidemiologist Professor Tony Blakely and he said that even achieving 70 per cent would be a real challenge for the state.

We were both pleasantly surprised when New South Wales smashed that target, opening up earlier than anyone expected, thanks to record vaccination rates.

We’ve just hit 80 per cent double-dose and are now staring down the 90 per cent target too.

Vaccination goals provided a light at the end of the tunnel and something to aim for.

In my opinion, New Zealand’s Prime Minister should’ve followed suit, when making her picnic announcement for Aucklanders.

When similar outdoor gatherings were approved in Sydney, it was a privilege only granted to those who were double dosed.

It was so clearly spelt out, that I had three friends who went out and got a dose, purely so they could catch up with mates in a park.

Jacinda Ardern could’ve encouraged thousands of Aucklanders to go and do their bit, by simply offering that freedom to the fully vaccinated.

Then on October 4, the Prime Minister laid out her three-step roadmap to move our biggest city out of current Covid-19 restrictions.

Bizarrely, the changes weren’t tied to vaccination rates, meaning there was no goal or clarity around when things could start opening up.

If the Super Saturday Vaxathon has proven anything, it’s that New Zealanders are ready to do their bit.

All it takes is a push in the right direction - and a clear vaccination target would do that.