Vaccinating for dear life

It is the fight of our generation.

Our essential weapon is vaccination. And as has been said: Vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and director-general of Health Ashley Bloomfield repeatedly exhort us to get our jabs. Whatever the late start to vaccination, whatever the Government’s mistakes or sluggish rollouts, whatever our political affiliation, they are dead right.

We must vaccinate for dear life.

New Zealand topped 90,000 jabs a day in late August. What an achievement.

The alarm caused by the Auckland outbreak spurred action. Younger age groups became eligible. Many more vaccination sites opened.

The difficulty now is that the easier targets — those of us keen to do our bit and those who acted on that impulse — have received at least their first inoculations.

The challenge now is to reach out and sustain high rates. Yesterday, total jabs numbered 62,782.

How might these consistently higher rates be achieved?

Vaccination via pharmacies and GPs, as well as the primary centres and drive-through sites, created impressive capacity. The fact the Pfizer vaccine was less difficult to store than first thought was a game-changer.

On top of that, the boosts in supply from Spain and Denmark have removed any hesitancy in going full tilt.

The Mr Whippy-style buses arriving in South Auckland have injected a little fun into the campaign. Going door-to-door, face-to-face, is essential to increase coverage.

The hard-core anti-vaxxers are estimated to be about 5% of the population and are highly unlikely to change their minds — unless they suddenly want to travel overseas and need a vaccine passport to do so. But there are also both large numbers of those who are unsure — often prey to misinformation and lies — and many who will simply not get around to it.

The size of that last cohort should not be underestimated. Procrastination, lethargy or being reluctant to decide — no matter good intent — is part of being human.

The vaccination battle must be waged on many fronts, especially in search of increased numbers of the young and groups less engaged with mainstream New Zealand.

Clinics at Pasifika churches and working through Maori health providers have been part of the arsenal.

Tactics are required to tackle socially and economically challenged parts of the community, whatever their ethnicity.

Prizes and rewards have been promoted as incentives. They have a place.

What about checks through schools? What about every GP office checking on every single eligible person on their books?

What about more use of testimonials from sporting stars and other leading figures?

What about grandparents checking on their grandchildren and asking, nicely of course, how they are getting on with their vaccinations?

Businesses are doing their bit, as well. Steel and Tube, for example, is offering $150 in cash, shares or KiwiSaver for staff fully dosed by mid-November.

New Zealand can play on its pride and as a competitive game, ranking ourselves in a medal table against the world. Column 1: Where do we stand on first jabs in the league of nations? Column 2: What is our ranking on the fully vaccinated?

These could be updated every day or two.

The results at present are encouraging. From being at the bottom of the developed world, miles behind pandemic disaster zones like the United Kingdom, we are climbing fast.

As a small and relatively united and prosperous nation, we should strive towards the very top.

Already, it is clear vaccination will be needed for overseas travel. Other restrictions on the unvaccinated could also be persuasive. A dose of self-interest can overcome hesitation.

It is clear vaccination for 80% of those 12 and over will be insufficient. Hospitals, appallingly short of ICU capacity, will be quickly swamped. There will be many more deaths.

Can we, however, top 90%?

We know eventually we must open to the world. And even with 90%-plus there will be more deaths.

The under-12s, at least for some time, will be a potential reservoir for infection. In due course, children might need to be inoculated as well.

"Vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate" must be our rallying cry.

Comments

Another good editorial.
It is pleasing to see that you have moderated your previously unequivocal blaming of the Govt for the delays in the vaccine rollout to the more moderated, "whatever" approach. The jury has yet to determine the reasons behind the delays and it is unfair to lay blame on anyone with out evidence.
The point is that the rollout is steaming forward now with the population equivalent of Invercargill being vaccinated every day.
If we get to the 90%, or even the 80% level by Christmas and gradually start opening up the country by next winter, (which will be the real danger period for us) and the death rate from Covid19 is down the the levels currently experienced for standard influenza, then we will have achieved something.

"What about more use of testimonials from sporting stars and other leading figures?" Ask the stars? Who do you mean, like Eric Clapton?

 

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