COVID-19: Health chief Ashley Bloomfield reveals vaccine rollout target

The Director-General of Health says it's "mission-critical" when it comes to getting people protected against COVID-19 - and he'd like to see 90 percent or more New Zealanders vaccinated.

Ashley Bloomfield's comments come despite Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's refusal to set a vaccination target, only saying she'll settle for nothing less than the "best in the world" when it comes to COVID-19 vaccine coverage.

Despite a sluggish start to New Zealand's vaccine rollout that began behind many other nations, we're now vaccinating the most per 100 people every day - ahead of the likes of Australia, Israel and India. 

Countries like the US got off to a fast start with its vaccine rollout but has stalled - with only 54.6 percent of its eligible population has been vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Reuters' vaccination tracker. Coverage in the UK is slightly higher at 66 percent fully protected - just under the threshold set for reopening by the likes of Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

"It's increasingly clear from overseas that vaccination is highly protective of people getting unwell and dying from COVID-19. The evidence could not be clearer," Dr Bloomfield told reporters on Thursday.

"In countries with high vaccination rates, COVID-19 has become a pandemic, or an epidemic, of the unvaccinated… It's not just any vaccination level, it's a very high vaccination level - we need to be at or above 90 percent and that is where everybody needs to be thinking about and that is why we have geared up our system to make sure we can deliver to that level.

"This is mission-critical; every New Zealander needs to take up that opportunity [to get vaccinated]."

Appearing with Dr Bloomfield at Thursday's COVID-19 media update, Ardern reiterated as many people as possible needed to be vaccinated.

"The higher we are, the more protection we have, the more likely it is that we don't have overly restrictive rules around us because everyone who could be vaccinated hasn't been," said Ardern.

"Do it for kids. There is a whole group of children that cannot be vaccinated right now - they're not eligible, and yet we are increasingly seeing COVID-19 reach our children.

"Unless every adult who is eligible to be vaccinated is, they risk passing it on to a child so if you don't feel like doing it for yourself, do it for our kids."

About 1.53 million New Zealanders - around 36 percent of the population - are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.