'Range of reasons' why border workers haven't received COVID-19 vaccine - Dr Bloomfield

The Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield has revealed there are a range of reasons why some frontline border workers are hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

During the 1pm update on Monday, Dr Bloomfield confirmed there was a small group of people working on the frontline who had been offered the vaccine but had declined it.

"There will be a range of reasons why people haven't been vaccinated - some didn't want to be. I'm not surprised in the sense that we always anticipated that there would be some who would be very keen right at the start and we saw our workers right from the first day, many of them willingly coming forward.

"There would be others who wanted questions answered and who might look to see what their colleagues were doing, and there would be some, at the end of the day, who would be unwilling to be vaccinated.

"This is not because there hasn't been the opportunity for people to be vaccinated."

When asked if there are anti-vaxxers on the front line, Bloomfield said: "It depends what you mean by anti-vaxxers". 

"There will be some people in our frontline border staff - as there are in every part of society - that have a very clear belief that they don't want to have the vaccine. However all of our surveys have shown us it is a relatively low number. They may have specific questions, they may have concerns, and many people do."

This comes as the Government announced any border workers who refuse the vaccine will soon be removed from any frontline roles in a bid to decrease the risk of COVID-19 through the border.

Dr Bloomfield said people who have refused the vaccine will be the first to have conversations with their employers about redeployment.

"As the Prime Minister said last week, again this was clear from the start, if the people were unable to, or unwilling to take up the offer, then other arrangements would need to be put in place and that process is underway."

How many border workers have been vaccinated?

The Government insists only a small portion of the border workforce aren't vaccinated, but Dr Bloomfield confirmed they still "don't have exact numbers" on how many haven't received the jab.

"There are many people on the frontline who have been vaccinated, there are others in the process of being vaccinated and there are others who are still to be vaccinated from this week, because it's a large workforce and everyone we know has been invited although some haven't yet taken up that invitation."

Included in the number of people yet to be vaccinated were two border workers who have recently tested positive.

On Sunday, it was revealed Case C, a security staffer at the Grand Millennium, had tested positive for the virus. Case C is a close contact of Case B, another security guard at the facility who returned a positive result on April 8.

"There is no suggestion they are vaccine-hesitant or don't want to be vaccinated," Dr Bloomfield said on Monday. 

"I do want to note that vaccination status, like all personal health information, is private to individuals. I understand Case C has wanted to be vaccinated but there may have been complications recently by being in isolation as a close contact of Case B. The testing history of Case B is also being further investigated."

The vaccine rollout

Despite the hesitancy, Dr Bloomfield assured the Government is confident in the progress of the vaccine rollout.

"Over 110,000 doses have now been administered around the country," he said.

"We will have a full update on Wednesday. We are continuing to work with individual DHBs on supply and demand and projections and the workforce they need... The overarching focus remains on delivering per our vaccination rollout and plan ensuring we get it to those most at risk from or most likely to be exposed to COVID-19.

"Having moved through most of the border and MIQ force and their household contacts, we are now well into vaccinating their approximately 480,000 people in group two."

He said there is no hint there's any problem with vaccine supply.