Covid vaccinations: what you need to know

SDHB vaccine rollout incident controller Hamish Brown (left) and vaccine programme leader Karl...
SDHB vaccine rollout incident controller Hamish Brown (left) and vaccine programme leader Karl Metzler, unite against Covid-19. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
The wider community is about to start receiving the Covid-19 vaccination, and that community has plenty of questions about how the system will work. Health reporter Mike Houlahan asked SDHB vaccine rollout incident controller Hamish Brown and vaccine programme leader Karl Metzler some of the many questions which have been asked by Otago Daily Times readers.

What is the schedule and breakdown of groups 1, 2, 3 and 4 and who qualifies for the various groups?

Group 1: Border and managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) workers are already being vaccinated.

Group 2: High-risk frontline workers and people living in high-risk places are being vaccinated.

Group 3: People who are at risk of getting very sick from Covid-19 are being contacted now. People in this group trying to make bookings now are finding they cannot get an appointment until the end of July.

Almost 21,000 people in the SDHB region are fully immunised, and as at June 13 a total of 56,254 vaccinations had been given in the region.

Group 4: People aged 60 and over will be the first of the general public to book their vaccine from July 28. This will be followed by those 55 and over who will be able to book from August 11. From there, those 45 and older should be able to book from mid-to-late August while people over 35 will do so about a month later. It will likely open up for the rest of the population by October.

If I think I am in Group 1 or Group 2 and have not been vaccinated, what should I do?

If you are in Group 1 or Group 2 and you have not yet been invited to book your appointment, please speak to your employer for the booking details. The vaccination programme team is working directly with providers and NGOs to reach those in Group 2 who are not working in healthcare, such as at-risk people living in residential settings with a high risk of transmission or exposure to Covid-19.

Why haven’t my 90+ parents even been invited to register for the vaccine?

Group 3 is over 100,000 people, we fundamentally can’t vaccinate 100,000 people all at once. We are starting to invite people, but all our capacity at the moment is booked up until August.

I think I am in Group 3. Should I have been contacted by now and if not, when should I be contacted?

We are focused on contacting people in Group 3 by the end of July, inviting them to book in for their vaccinations. There are over 100,000 people in this cohort so it will take some time to work through. You do not need to do anything. We will contact you when it is your turn. We have got enough vaccine for everybody and we are grateful for your patience.

Will my GP contact me, or someone else?

We will be using a variety of methods to contact people including text, email and post, and you can expect to receive an invitation to book your vaccine appointment from WellSouth, your GP or other health provider. As the rollout scales up we expect to broaden our methods of communications to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to be vaccinated.

If I do not have a GP, how will the Covid-19 vaccination roll-out find me? Should I be calling someone?

People in the Group 3 cohort who are not enrolled and wish to be vaccinated can call 0800 478-256 for help enrolling with a general practice. This number cannot help with booking the vaccine, but being enrolled is the easiest way for us to contact you when we are ready for you to make a booking. The vaccine is available to everybody in New Zealand, regardless of their immigration status. People who are not enrolled because they are not entitled to received funded care can still get the vaccine and will be given the opportunity to get vaccinated. You can register your details at, and we’ll contact you when we are ready for you to make a booking.

If I get vaccinated now, will there enough vaccine for me to get my second shot?

Yes, New Zealand has secured 10million doses, enough for 5million people to get the two doses they need to be protected. You will be prompted to book your second dose appointment at the same time as your first to ensure there is a gap of at least 21 days between doses.

Has the SDHB vaccination plan had to be slowed down due to supply issues?

We are keeping to plan, but have not been able to ramp up to the level we would like to as the ministry is managing supply at its end. Our original plan had us delivering more volume in June but we will keep steady for the next few weeks before ramping up again in July. The SDHB is 7% ahead of plan at the moment.

If you receive an injection at the Meridian centre, you have to deal with eight people as you go through the process. Why do you need so many?

With those support staff, each vaccinator can do an injection every three minutes, but without them we do not get anywhere near the efficiency we need for a large centre, where we aim to do 500-600 injections day.

When will vaccination of Group 4 start and when will I be contacted?

From July 28, people aged 60+ across New Zealand will be invited to book online through Book My Vaccine, the national online booking system. An appointment may not be available immediately and will depend on location and demand. People will book both of their vaccinations at the same time and will be sent confirmation of their appointments. You can change your vaccination appointments online if they no longer suit and help with booking will be available over the phone if needed.

It is a big group, so we will break it down by age bands, starting with people aged 60 and over and then, from August 11, people aged 55 and over. We are using age bands because it is simple and easy to understand. We are starting with older people first because they are more at risk if they catch Covid-19.

Depending on vaccine supply and progress with other age groups, invitations will open up to people aged 45 and over from mid to late August, mid to late September for people aged 35 and over, with everyone else being eligible from October.

How will my vaccination appointment be arranged?

You will receive an invitation to book your appointment through our online booking system and will be provided with a booking code. These invitations will be sent through a variety of channels including text, email and direct mail. Through this online system, you can make, cancel, and amend your two appointments at the click of a button. A free 0800 phoneline is also provided for those unable to use the online system.

People have been told they will get a text or an email re making a booking: who sends that message?

WellSouth has been sending those texts to targeted people, bringing people on board as needed so that we don’t overwhelm the system.

How is the order in which people will be vaccinated decided?

We are adhering to the Ministry of Health’s sequencing framework to ensure that those most at risk of contracting Covid-19, or those most likely to be seriously ill if they catch it, are protected first.

Will there be enough vaccine to inject everyone in the South in Group 4?

Yes, New Zealand has secured 10million doses enough for 5million people to get the two doses they need to be protected.

How can I book my vaccine now as the new booking system comes in?

Nothing has changed for people already with an appointment. People who either haven’t booked or aren’t yet eligible, will eventually use the Book My Vaccine system. People will be able to choose the date, time and location of their two jabs through Book My Vaccine. More information on the system would be available next week.

If I want to travel, can I be vaccinated early?

Yes, but only in strictly limited circumstances. You must either be travelling for a reason of national significance, on compassionate grounds — to access critical medical care not available in New Zealand, to visit a dying family member, or provide critical care and protection for a dependant — or because your travel has been sponsored by an overseas agency.

How will residents in smaller centres be vaccinated? Will they need to travel, or will a ‘‘flying squad’’ come to town?

We are working closely with general practices and community pharmacies and already have several rural clinics operating. This network of vaccinators will continue to grow as the vaccine programme progresses to ensure we are reaching rural populations.

Are workplaces able to arrange Covid-19 vaccinations for staff? If so, will that potentially come into conflict with other methods of vaccination booking?

As the Prime Minister noted yesterday, to reach those we need to in a timely way, we will be looking at workplace vaccinations in some situations, as part of the rollout to Group 4.

How will the SDHB communicate all this information to the public?

The SDHB will use a variety of methods to communicate the relevant information to the public throughout the programme, including direct communication to those eligible and via the media. You can also keep up to date with the vaccine rollout and find answers to common questions on our website:

Does the SDHB have enough vaccinators? If not, how many more does it need for both Group 3 and Group 4?

Our strategy relies on working closely with GPs and pharmacies to deliver the vaccine in rural areas and, in Group 4, urban areas. We have recruited 182 people to our mass-vaccination clinics in Invercargill and Dunedin. These will continue to operate, and we are looking to recruit additional staff to support the teams there. We estimate 173 FTE will be required at these clinics at peak capacity of the vaccination programme.

How does the Ministry of Health receive vaccines, and how does it decide how much to distribute to DHBs?

Vaccine deliveries have been staggered, with higher volumes scheduled towards the end of the vaccination programme when more people will be getting their jabs.

All 20 DHBs have been contracted to provide Covid-19 vaccinations, and each region has been given a spreadsheet with a target of how many vaccinations it will need to dispense each week to keep on track to achieve the ministry of health’s vaccination targets.

Vaccines are distributed nationally, in sufficient quantities to meet those targets.

How does the SDHB decide how and when to send vaccines into the regions?

Rather than just focus on urban centres we have tried to get into rural areas, as well. Some of that was driven by necessity, with the Queenstown bubble opening, but we have tried to be mindful of the equity issue between rural and urban areas and trying to keep all territorial authorities on track to be vaccinated at roughly the same rate.

Some medical centres were approached by the SDHB to be vaccination centres: how did the SDHB decide on which centres to approach?

Some of that was pragmatic; in Queenstown we approached the largest practice because we know they were capable and able. Some smaller practices will be brought on board once we have spoken to them and let them know what is involved.

Some GPs are telling us they have never been contacted directly by the Ministry of Health or SDHB about the vaccination rollout. Is this correct and if so why would that be?

Some people might have missed out, but we do send out regular advisory messages through the GP network and that should go to all of them.

Why does it seem Auckland is being prioritised over other regions of the country? Is it?

Broadly speaking, Auckland is being treated the same as anywhere else in New Zealand.

That said, the Government has made a commitment to prioritise vaccination for communities considered ‘‘at-risk’’, which includes Maori (who died at a far greater per capita rate than Europeans during the 1918 pandemic) and Pacific Islanders.

Auckland has a far higher number of Maori and Polynesian people than elsewhere in New Zealand, so an emphasis is being placed on getting those communities vaccinated.

What is the status of the SDHB booking system? How is the transition to the national booking system to be handled and how confident are you no-one will be left behind?

The system we are on now is performing well from our perspective, we are not seeing anything like the number of patients not turning up that we did before. We will, tentatively, be moving to the national booking system at the beginning of July, and we are confident we can make that move without any issues at the appropriate moment.

How many vaccines are being wasted?

A negligible amount. In the early days of the vaccine rollout the advice from manufacturer Pfizer was that doses needed to be kept in super cold storage and then used immediately. Pfizer has since amended that advice to say that doses need to be used between 5 and 31 days, so vaccination centres no longer need to use up or dispose of unused doses on a daily basis.


You know it's interesting, all of a sudden we have a vaccine for this virus but don't have one for the flu, Zika virus, Aids virus, bird flu etc etc....



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