Coronavirus: Chris Hipkins urges people who think they should be vaccinated against COVID-19, but aren't, to get in touch

The Government is urging unvaccinated Kiwis who think they should have had a jab by now to get in touch.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins on Wednesday said they've delivered 53,000 first doses and 46,000 second to those in Group 1 - border workers and their household contacts; - and 306,000 first doses to those in Group 2 - "frontline workers and people living in high-risk settings" - 211,000 also having received their second. 

That leaves potentially about 180,000 people in the two highest-risk groups which haven't yet had a jab at all.

"If you have not heard from us, if you have not booked in for a vaccine yet, we do want to hear from you now," Hipkins said at a press conference with Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield.

"Those who are in Groups 1 and 2, if you have not made arrangements to be vaccinated, please make sure you are getting in touch... We know we have enough vaccines to do groups one and two, and we want to make sure that people are coming forward. You'll be helping yourself, your friends and your family by coming forward."

A reporter asked Hipkins if he had concerns people were lying about living with border workers in order to jump the queue. Hipkins said not a lot of that had been detected. 

"We're not going and sending inspectors to people's homes to check whether they are living with a border worker or not. Border workers have been supplying us with lists of people who they live with, and generally speaking that's the way we match people up." 

How to get a vaccination booked differs by DHB, but guidelines are available on the Unite Against COVID-19 website. 

'Slow day' thanks to nurse's strike 

The figures are a vast improvement on last week, when figures showed only about 200,000 in Group 2 and half of those in Group 1 hadn't yet had their first shots. 

"As of midnight last night we've delivered more than three-quarters of a million doses of the PfizerCOVID-19 vaccine across New Zealand - that's an increase of 107,000 doses on this time last week," Hipkins said.

"Within that, almost half-a-million people have now received their first doses. We were just shy of that last night - it's at 498,670 people to be exact. I imagine that by now we would have clocked that half-a-million mark, with more than 276,000 people receiving their second doses, signalling they have been fully vaccinated."

That's despite a nurse's strike reducing capacity across the country on Wednesday.

"It'll be a relatively slow day in terms of vaccinations. Feedback we've had from DHBs around the country is that they are expecting anywhere from 30 percent of their normal capacity to 70 percent, at the upper level. So that means it won't be a big day for vaccinations... 

"I don't think it will affect their overall performance, but it does mean that today will be a slow day."

Hipkins wouldn't be drawn on whether contingency plans had been drawn up in case the nurses don't get a deal and go on strike again. 

"I don't want to speculate about potential future strike action. There's a strike today, clearly - they're out the front now, as we speak. But I just encourage people to get back around the table."

As for Group 3 - people over 65 and with underlying conditions - Hipkins said people shouldn't panic if they have friends who've been contacted for a vaccination, but they haven't yet. 

"There will be a little bit of unevenness around the country - Group 3 is a big group, there's over a million people in group three and they won't all get vaccinated at the same time. I can reassure you that we are working our way through group three, and you will absolutely be hearing from us. 

"There will be enough vaccines for everybody, but we have to make sure we are delivering this in a sustainable way based on the supplies we are getting and our capacity to deliver."

So far 111,000 people in Group 3 have had their first shots and 19,000 their second. 

More storage capacity

A million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are expected to arrive in July, meaning the rollout can keep gathering pace. Helping that will be the arrival of 17 new ultra-cold freezers worth $20,000 each, necessary to store the vaccine. 

"They're going through their final tests," said Hipkins, and "will allow us to establish a new Christchurch distribution hub which will be able to receive vaccines directly, rather than them all coming through Auckland."

Currently there are seven freezers in Auckland - soon there will be 19. Christchurch's total will go from two to seven. Between them the freezers can store 4 million doses - enough space to see us through the rest of the initial rollout, Hipkins said. 

"This is a marathon and not a sprint... you don't start a marathon with a sprint. You potentially want to increase your speed later on in the race, so we are scaling up in a sustained and controlled manner."