Rural areas won't get left behind in vaccine rollout - Bloomfield

Director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield. Photo: NZ Herald
Director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield. Photo: NZ Herald
People will be able to walk in to a clinic and get the Pfizer vaccine jab from July, when the Government plans to be able to roll out an average of 280,000-odd doses a week for six months.

That would enable the Ministry of Health to reach its goal of vaccinating every eligible Kiwi who wants to be vaccinated, director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said in a media briefing today.

He added that efforts will be made - including through mobile stations - to ensure people in rural and harder-to-access areas will have as much of a chance to get a jab as anyone.

And he revealed a $1 billion budget for vaccines, which the Health Ministry is yet to totally spend.

Bloomfield added that he would move to allay GP concerns about their role in the rollout by writing to them by the end of the week.

He didn't want to put a figure on what New Zealand would need to reach "population immunity", which has previously been estimated at about 70 per cent of the population.

That is also proportion of the population - 69 per cent - that say they are likely to take the vaccine, according to a new survey released by the Health Ministry today.

One in five respondents said they were unlikely to take a vaccine if offered, and 9.4 per cent say they will "definitely not".

Concerns about the vaccine were mainly about the long-term effects (58 per cent) and safety (40 per cent).

Only 48 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds said they would definitely get vaccinated, but this jumped 20 percentage points in December last year, which Bloomfield said was down to "confidence in our programme".

The survey results - conducted by Horizon Research and released today by the Ministry of Health - are from online surveys with about 1400 respondents in September 2020, December 2020, February 2021 and March 2021.

Meanwhile, Medsafe's latest report into adverse events shows no potential safety issues with the Pfizer vaccine, a serious reaction in about one in every 3700 people, and a non-serious reaction in one in every 108 people.

The report, released yesterday, covers the three-week period from the start of the rollout until March 13, including 22,588 doses. This would equate roughly to 22,588 people, given very few if any of them would have had a second dose.

One person can also identify more than one symptom, so the proportions of adverse reactions per person are estimates.

But epidemiologist Michael Baker said it was "still clear that there was an incredibly low proportion of people who have anything classified as a serious reaction".

The most frequent "adverse event" was dizziness (49 instances), followed by headaches (37), nausea (36), fainting (22), faintness (9), redness (8), fatigue (8), fever (8), injection site pain (8) and swelling (8).

These are also the known side-effects of the Pfizer vaccine.

Zero potential safety issues, defined as something that "may be caused by the vaccine and requires further investigation", were identified.

Medsafe also stressed that an adverse event isn't necessarily caused by a vaccine dose.

Three of the serious reactions were new since the last safety report; two of them were allergic reactions and were managed appropriately, while the third was a reactogenicity reaction, where the patient experienced flu-like symptoms.

Earlier today Medsafe asked for more information from pharmaceutical company Janssen before making a decision to approve its Covid-19 vaccine.

The US, European Union and South Africa have temporarily halted the rollout of the company's Covid jab due to fears over rare blood clots.

It is expected to provide an update on the Janssen approval process in the next two to three weeks.

Add a Comment

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter