COVID-19: 50 vaccination centres opening in New Zealand next week

More than 41,000 Kiwis have already received their COVID-19 vaccine.
More than 41,000 Kiwis have already received their COVID-19 vaccine. Photo credit: Ministry of Health

The government says that the number of people getting the COVID-19 vaccine will climb steeply in the next couple of weeks.

More than 41,000 New Zealanders have had the vaccine already - three percent shy of the target.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said that would rise as more vaccination sites opened.

He told Morning Report about 50 centres would be up and running by early next week.

However, the government was sticking with its sequencing framework.

"We're aiming to get everybody done by the end of the year."

But that would depend on how quickly people come forward to get vaccinated.

He was concerned for those who had not made getting the vaccine a priority and that would be a challenge towards the end of the year.

Big volumes of the vaccine are expected to arrive in the second half of the year.

"We're talking regularly to Pfizer ... they're confident that they'll be able to do the bulk of our deliveries in the third quarter.

"The third quarter is critical for us, that's when we start getting the big numbers of vaccines coming in."

For the rural population, he said the vaccine would be made widely available through primary care like GP practices and pharmacies in the second half of the year.

There would be transport considerations for those living in rural areas who needed to get the vaccine earlier.

The first half of the year is calendared to make it available to those who meet the criteria to get earlier access to the vaccine.

As for some sportspeople jumping the queue, he said those being exempted were in the hundreds and would not affect the at-risk population.

"It's not displacing other people. Our allocation framework still continues to apply."

MIQ charges

Yesterday, the government made changes to the way it would charge for managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ).

From June 1 those returnees will need to remain in the country for at least 180 days otherwise they will be liable to pay the fee of $3100 for their 14-day stay in MIQ.

It extends the current 90-day rule, where returning New Zealand citizens and permanent residents who have not been in New Zealand since August 11 2020 and stay in the country for 90 days are exempt from the charges.

Hipkins said New Zealanders were free to return for a short stay, but the taxpayer would not be footing the bill for their isolation stay.

"Ultimately our managed isolation facilities are designed to ensure that New Zealanders who need to return home are able to.

"It's not designed so that people can come home for a three-month holiday and then take off back to wherever it is that they're actually living. We've seen some anecdotal evidence that that may be happening and this ultimately will mean that people are coming home, they're coming home for good reason."

Those returning to be with ailing family members or "for a genuine reason" can apply for exemptions meaning they will not have to pay for MIQ.

"The New Zealand taxpayer shouldn't be subsidising people coming home for a three-month holiday."

New Zealanders who have been vaccinated overseas still need to go through MIQ.

It was possible to get the virus even after taking the vaccine but Hipkins said the impact was mild, incubation was not long and transmission was lower.

He said reports from around the world were based on slowing down the spread, whereas New Zealand was working towards stopping the virus from entering the country.