Coronavirus: New Zealand needs to start counting down remaining eligible unvaccinated people, not count vaccines given - epidemiologist

An epidemiologist says New Zealand needs to stop counting up the total number of COVID-19 vaccines given, but instead start counting down the number of harder-to-reach people who aren't yet vaccinated.

Eighty-five percent of the eligible population have now received their first dose, but roughly 500,000 New Zealanders remain unvaccinated.

The vaccine numbers were helped by Super Saturday, where 130,002 people got either their first or second dose - about 2.5 percent of the population.

Super Saturday marked Auckland's biggest-ever vaccination day, with close to 9000 first doses and almost 32,000 second doses. It brings the city even closer to the 90 percent target, with 89 percent of the eligible population with at least their first dose.

Counties Manukau also stands out, with 15,000 doses in that district health board alone. It's second only to Canterbury, which led the charge with 15,500 vaccinations on Saturday.

Epidemiologist Rod Jackson says New Zealand's efforts on Super Saturday were brilliant.

"But there is a big 'but', and the but is there are 500,000 New Zealanders eligible for vaccination who will still remain unvaccinated on Monday," he says.

It's a small number compared with the 3.5 million Kiwis who have protected themselves but still enough to put pressure on the healthcare system. 

"If the current outbreak in Auckland is anything to go by, one in ten of those people will need to be hospitalised, so that's 50,000," Jackson says.

He believes rather than counting up to a 90 percent vaccination target, we need to start counting down the number of harder-to-reach people who aren't yet vaccinated. 

"I think we need to turn what we've been doing on its head and focus on that 500,000 because that is where all the death and destruction is going to happen."

While Super Saturday worked for many to help them get vaccinated, it hasn't worked for all, and Jackson says while there was plenty to celebrate, we will need to get creative about reaching the final 500,000.