Chris Hipkins says very few Kiwis have been wrongly told they're in vaccination Group 3, rejecting reports thousands might have been.
Group 3 are next in line for the COVID-19 vaccine, and texts have started going out to those eligible to tell them to expect an invite soon.
"I am perplexed by this and I think given the circumstances, they need to prioritise who they're getting this to," 20-year-old Morgan Kemp told Newshub on Thursday after getting a text.
Hipkins, in charge of the Government's COVID-19 response, told Newshub Nation on Saturday those running the vaccination campaign are relying on information provided by GPs and primary health organisations, and that many people might be in Group 3 without even realising.
"Group 3 is defined as - there's an age cohort there, but there's also a health-related reason to put people in Group 3 - so if people have underlying health conditions and so on. And so it's ultimately the GP practices that are making that distinction.
"So in some cases, someone might have come in with a chest infection some time ago. They may have even forgot they even had one previously. And they could have been included in Group 3 for that reason by their GP practice."
There are approximately 1.7 million people in Group 3 - a third of the entire country. It includes not just people 65 and over, but anyone with a "relevant underlying health condition" such as obesity, diabetes, asthma or more; a disability; their carers; anyone who's pregnant; and people in custodial settings.
"People will have been getting [the text] because their GP practices advised that those people should be eligible under Group 3. The data that's being supplied is being supplied by each GP practice. Now, there's no way for us to run a ruler over that and challenge every individual recommendation, if you like, by a GP practice."
He said rather than the 'thousands' who reportedly might have got the text in error, the evidence suggests it's not a "hugely widespread problem".
"If you take Auckland, for example, they sent out 117,000 notifications, and they've had 12 calls from people questioning, 'Am I in the right group?'"
There have also been reports people over 65 haven't been getting the texts.
"They should be getting in touch because it might be that the notification is going to a previous address, a previous email address, a previous mobile number, something like that," said Hipkins. "There might be a data issue in the system, which means that they're not getting that information… that's one of the reasons why we've got some additional safeguards in there, like an 0800 number where people can get in contact."
That number is Healthline, 0800 282 926. A different 0800 number will be in place at the end of July for the wider rollout to Group 4 - the remaining 2 million Kiwis who haven't already been offered a jab.
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