Super Saturday’s clear message

Photo: Supplied via Local Democracy Reporting
Photo: Supplied via Local Democracy Reporting
The dust has settled on Super Saturday, but was the Government’s much-hyped vaccination drive a success?

On raw numbers it could be argued yes: a tick over 130,000 jabs in arms over a 24-hour period represented a 2% increase in New Zealanders with first doses and a 3% increase in people who have had both their injections.

But, as with all statistics, an initial glance does not tell the full story.

Of those 130,000 injections, almost 91,000 were second doses: these were people who could almost certainly be expected to have got their vaccinations regardless of the vaxathon razzmatazz.

As Act New Zealand was quick to point out, the 39,025 first doses prepped and injected on Saturday ranked just 21st in the list of days with the most first jabs administered.

On that score the event therefore sounds like a disappointment, but this would be comparing apples with oranges.

Those higher first dose days coincided with the arrival of the Delta variant and the return to Alert Level 4.

The fear and uncertainty of those days, unsurprisingly, saw people flock to protect themselves in a way the enticement of a free ice cream, or the seemingly less immediate threat posed during Alert Level 2, could not.

Saturday’s event was not about injecting those with the commonsense to accept medical science and public health advice: that cohort was long since vaccinated.

Super Saturday was about reaching the late adopter, the nervous, the uncertain, and the doubtful, that remaining few percent of the population which so far, for whatever reason, have resisted the call to roll up their sleeves and protect themselves, their family and friends, and the wider community against Covid-19.

Assessing whether it succeeded in that ambition is much harder: there is no exit polling at a vaccination clinic to examine why you turned up.

However, Super Saturday data might offer some clues.

More than 21,500 Maori received a Covid vaccination on Saturday, 50% of those doses being first doses.

Maori, despite having suffered an appalling per capita death rate in the 1918 influenza pandemic, have stubbornly been the slowest ethnic group to get vaccinated.

There are many complicated reasons for this, but those working at the flax roots level to improve Maori health have long argued that new and innovative ways need to be tried to get the pro-vaccination message across to this critical audience.

The southern region boasts the highest percentage of fully vaccinated Maori, but the fact that is just 50% of the population shows there is still much work to be done.

A vaxathon might not be the way to reach all of those people, but it seemingly reached some of them.

The more people who are vaccinated the safer everyone is, so on that score alone Super Saturday was worth the effort.

Southerners have long shown their northern counterparts the way, and after another 10,000 doses of vaccine were dispensed on Saturday they remain in or near the lead in most vaccination statistics.

Not counting those vaccinated yesterday, 86.2% of the South’s population aged 12 or over has now had at least one dose of vaccine and 68.5% are fully vaccinated, a terrific response.

In Dunedin city 90% of those eligible have received a first dose, and in Queenstown-Lakes District an impressive 94% of people have had at least one shot.

Southland District Gore and Clutha lag behind, although with first vaccination figures in the high 70% range they are closing in on the 90% target.

In those places, the SDHB will need to exercise some lateral thinking about how to bring those final few thousand in to the fold.

For all those numbers though, the ones that matter most are the daily community case numbers: another 60 yesterday, a third of which remained to be linked to other cases in the outbreak.

Covid-19, and its Delta variant, remain a clear and present danger to all New Zealanders and the message of Super Saturday must continue to be said: get vaccinated.