New Zealand needs to focus on vaccinating 20- to 39-year-olds to reduce the risk that they become a major “driver” of Covid-19 cases in future, an expert says.
University of NSW professor and epidemiologist Mary-Louise McLaws told Q+A that unless the vaccine rollout was equitable across regions, ages and ethnicities, “what you will see are clusters of infection”.
She said New Zealand needed to learn from the experiences of Singapore and Australia in the next phase of its pandemic response.
“If you don’t want to see infections that won’t be mild, necessarily, in a group that hasn’t been vaccinated and haven’t had any natural infection antibodies, you really do need to take the vaccine to the people, to the remote areas.”
McLaws said New Zealand tended to take quite a “conservative” approach to Covid-19, and “quite rightly”.
“But what I’d like to see is for you to learn from not just Australia, but overseas. Nearly country fails to understand who the drivers are.”
Instead, most countries focused on vaccinating older people, she said.
While vaccinating older people was “compassionate” because they were more likely to experience Covid-19 more seriously than young people, it was young people that tended to spread the virus, McLaws said.
She said New Zealand should be aiming for a 90 per cent double-dose rate for people aged between 20 and 39.