Auckland should get bonus Pfizer doses, according to vaccinators, epidemiologist

Rowan Quinn for RNZ 

Auckland should get every one of the bonus 250,000 Pfizer doses secured by the government, frontline vaccinators and a leading epidemiologist say.

The government has bought the extra doses from Spain to tide it through until its next major shipment from Pfizer in October and prevent a slowing in the high vaccination rates sparked by alert level 4.

Dr Rawiri Jansen helps run a large vaccination centre at Papakura marae and a network of GPs

He is unequivocal.

"All of it should come Auckland's way. It's the right thing to do," he said.

The city was in the middle of an outbreak, but also at risk of more, and it made sense to vaccinate as many people as possible, he said.

University of Auckland epidemiologist Rod Jackson wanted all the extra doses for Tāmaki Makaurau too.

It was highly likely there would be another incursion of Delta before Christmas, he said.

The city needed to be protected.

"Pre Delta I would have said 'not such a big deal, let's do it across the country evenly,' but Delta is so infectious I think we need to go for the biggest population where all the MIQ is," he said.

The Fono runs two large vaccination centres and a pop up drive-in clinic for the Tongan community.

Chief executive Tevita Funaki agreed Auckland should get a bigger share of the latest doses to keep the city and the country safe.

The outbreak had encouraged more people to be vaccinated, with most saying they want to protect themselves and their families," he said.

"We've got to keep up that momentum."

If Auckland did use all the extra doses, it would not stop other vaccinations around the country, but may mean they had to slow to pre-outbreak levels until there was more.

The Immunisation Advisory Centre's Nikki Turner said she did not think it was necessary to give an extra proportion of the latest doses to the city now there was a good supply and much more coming soon.

"If we had been short of vaccine then, yes, I think we may well have had to prioritise it to Auckland but in this case I think it is really important that we keep going everywhere for everybody," she said.

"No matter where we are in New Zealand there is still the risk of Covid for our communities."

Even Auckland's Mayor Phil Goff - who has long pushed for priority for Tamaki Makaurau- said he was OK with the bonus doses being spread across the country.

The city's vaccinators were doing a great job and it was easy to get a space either by booking or walking in, he said.

The focus should be on the essential workforce in the city, he said.

But Jackson said a highly vaccinated population had a better chance of stopping the virus spreading - and Auckland was where it would most likely arrive.

"If it looks like it's going to slip across the border, we want the person who's potentially exposed to be vaccinated," he said.

Funaki and Jansen said even though their teams were already vaccinating big numbers, they could do more if the supply was there.

As could all the GPs and pharmacies waiting to take part.

Jansen said the city was getting great support from the rest of Aotearoa.

He thought they would understand if Auckland took all the extra doses because it would be helping to keep everybody safe, he said.

The next main Pfizer shipment of 1.8 million doses was due next month, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she would announce details of another deal for extra doses next week.