COVID-19: More than 388,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine administered, on track to hit half-a-million in fortnight - Hipkins

More than 388,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have been administered nationwide since the launch of the Government's immunisation campaign, says COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins, with the country expected to hit the half-a-million mark in a fortnight.

Speaking to reporters during a press conference on Wednesday, Hipkins confirmed that 120,000 people have now received their second dose of the vaccine and are therefore fully immunised against COVID-19.

As of 12am on Wednesday, 388,877 doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been administered in New Zealand, Hipkins said - an increase of roughly 83,000 from the same time last week.

Hipkins says the rollout has achieved a "number of additional milestones", with roughly 16,000 jabs in a single day - the highest to date - on Friday.

On Tuesday, 14,000 doses of the vaccine were administered. In the last week, the Auckland region tipped over the 150,000 mark.

Hipkins said the vaccination campaign is "tracking ahead of plan", with particularly strong performances from several district health boards (DHBs).

A second Pacific-led community vaccination centre is opening at Auckland's Westgate Mall on Wednesday, Hipkins said, which is capable of vaccinating a maximum of 300 people per day by appointment and through community outreach. The first to be vaccinated on site were local church leaders, who were eager to lead the way and show their congregations how straightforward the process is.

Auckland's fourth large-scale community vaccination clinic opened in Birkenhead's Highbury Shopping Centre on Monday, the first centre on the North Shore. The others are located in Mt Wellington, Highbrook and Henderson, and are capable of vaccinating up to 1000 people per day.

Although trials of the online booking system are tracking "very well", teething problems with appointments and delays at vaccination clinics are to be expected, Hipkins said.

"It is an evolving process and we will continue to refine and improve systems as we go along," he told reporters.

"During these early stages there will be some teething troubles, such as some difficulties at bigger centres."

The minister reinforced that currently, "walk-ups" are discouraged to ensure eligible people with appointments are prioritised.

He reiterated that the general public who fall into group 4 of the Government's vaccination plan - people aged under 65 and without any underlying health conditions - should not be heading to vaccination sites at this stage. 

"Please refrain from walking up to a vaccination clinic at this stage," Hipkins said, noting that congestion at the clinics can cause eligible people to miss out. 

Currently, walk-ups could be an option for those who are eligible and may have missed a scheduled appointment.

Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, also provided some clarification around the possibility of adverse reactions to the Pfizer vaccine.

He acknowledged that some mild, common and temporary side effects have been observed in some people, and serious allergic reactions or medical events are possible. 

Any severe reactions to the vaccine will be recorded and sent to Medsafe's Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring (CARM), the national repository for adverse reaction reports, Bloomfield said. This is standard procedure with all vaccines and medicines in New Zealand.

Reports will then be evaluated by a medical assessor and an independent safety monitoring board to ensure if any safety alerts of warnings need to be issued. Express will also be reviewing reports from overseas, such as the recent evidence of blood clots being caused by AstraZeneca. 

The deaths of three elderly people in the days or weeks after receiving the vaccine were referred to CARM for investigation, and health officials are confident they were unrelated to the vaccine.