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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she disagrees with claims the Government hasn't been good enough when it comes to the rollout of flu vaccinations, saying older New Zealanders have been prioritised.
Ardern made the comments while giving a Covid-19 update with Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield this afternoon.
The total number of confirmed and probable cases in New Zealand is at now 1451 (up six on Wednesday), with 1036 people recovered. Eleven people are in hospitals, two are in ICU in a stable condition, including one in Dunedin.
The roll-out of the flu vaccine was described as a "debacle" and "total disaster" by the NZ Medical Association's chair Dr Kate Baddock when speaking to the Epidemic Response Committee earlier today.
Baddock said the issues with the rollout of flu vaccine meant her practice went without for 10 days while they had 4000 vulnerable people they needed to vaccinate.
"The flu vaccine was a complete debacle - there's absolutely no doubt about that," she told the committee.
But the Prime Minister said she disagreed with that assessment.
"The flu vaccine and flu vaccinations started earlier than we usually would, for good reason - we wanted to be prepared. And we have more flu vaccine than we would usually offer as well.
''So I disagree with their assessment of the flu vaccine. We want to protect New Zealanders and that's why we moved early in order to do that. It's not finished, it will be a rolling campaign.
"We prioritised those who were at the greatest risk - older New Zealanders, pregnant New Zealanders and groups that usually would be just waiting with every other New Zealander to be vaccinated. So we moved early, we got more vaccine and we continue with the flu vaccination programme.''
Bloomfield said Pharmac has moved to secure 400,000 flu vaccines ahead of Covid-19 and the Ministry of Health has done more work than usual.
He said Kiwis can "rest assured" that the Government is already working actively on how it will distribute a Covid-19 vaccine once it becomes available.
• Watch full media briefing here:
HEALTH SECTOR FUNDING AND PPE
Dr Kate Baddock told the Epidemic Response Committee the news that Cabinet had stopped another tranche of funding to keep GPs would have an immediate impact on practices, and some doctors would be out of work by the end of the week.
"We are very much hand to mouth in terms of cash flow ... when that cash no longer flows because we have delayed payments because of virtual consultations ... that cashflow which funds out staffing requirements is just not there."
She said the Health Ministry, DHBs and Health Minister all agreed on the funding before lockdown but "have reneged on that expectation".
Asked if GPs and pharmacies needed more funding, the Prime Minister said the Government had already provided $45 million to date for general practice to support them during the Covid-19 response.
"That's for everything from supporting virtual consults they've been doing, for additional costs as part of testing, and also they have been eligible for the wage subsidy," Jacinda Ardern said.
"We have recognised the costs they've faced, and we have worked hard to try and support them as well."
Asked for her reaction to reports that frontline health staff have been bullied for asking for more personal protection equipment, Ardern said it was not acceptable.
She said the Government wants front line workers to have access to as much PPE equipment as they need.
"We do not have an issue with the stock of PPE."
Every time an issue was raised, the Government followed up.
"Please keep giving us those examples so we can flush them out. We have a health system where workers should speak freely about concerns they have."
- NZ Herald, RNZ and ODT Online