Leading epidemiologist Rod Jackson says New Zealand should aim for 95 percent fully vaccinated, limit unvaccinated people taking health care away from vaccinated people

The 90 percent fully vaccinated goal might be viewed as a "milestone" by the Director-General of Health but a leading epidemiologist says New Zealand should aim higher after Auckland's "fantastic" turnout to get vaccinated.

The Auckland DHB is currently sitting at 95 percent of eligible people having received at least a single dose of the vaccine.

Rod Jackson, who is an epidemiologist at the University of Auckland says 95 percent fully vaccinated is "no longer aspirational, it's doable".

"Auckland DHB is up to 95 percent [first dose] so 95 percent is no longer aspirational, it's doable. I can't see why every DHB in New Zealand can't get up to 95 percent," Jackson told the AM Show on Monday. "I can't see why we can't get the majority of 5 to 11-year-olds vaccinated. "We are in an amazing position to win over COVID in this pandemic. We are the lucky last and can learn from everybody else. We don't want to take our foot off the accelerator."

The current rules the Government has set up for New Zealand to reach the new COVID protection framework or as it's more commonly known as the "traffic light system", will need every DHB to reach 90 percent fully vaccinated.    

Auckland could move before the rest of the country if all three of its DHBs - Auckland, Counties Manukau and Waitemata - reach 90 percent fully vaccinated. 

"Viruses just do what they want to do and will do anything to survive," he says. "They will sneak anywhere and Delta is particularly sneaky because it's so contagious, so basically if we don't get vaccinated everyone will get COVID, so every New Zealander will either be vaccinated or get COVID. There is no other way."

The big worry for Jackson is that even if New Zealand reaches 90 percent fully vaccinated that is still 421,000 people unvaccinated.

 This could see our hospitals overrun and take away beds for the vaccinated for issues that aren't COVID-related. 

"That is all very well, but if they say it's their choice and they end up getting sick [with COVID] and hospitalised then you and I won't have a choice to go into hospital when we do something maybe stupid like fall off a ladder or someone else hits us, so even when it's nothing to do with us we won't get into hospital so that is the balance," Jackson tells the AM Show. 

"At 90 percent, that is still 421,000 eligible Kiwis that haven't been vaccinated, 900,000 under 12, just do the sums that is 1.3 million plus people unvaccinated. 

"It doesn't matter whether one in 500 get hospitalized, that would completely overwhelm the New Zealand health services. 

With the Government under extraordinary pressure to ease restrictions to allow Aucklands to spread their wings and leave New Zealand's biggest city for Christmas, Jackson says the government's best move is to reveal the other side of the argument. 

"I will tell you what I think we should do. The Prime Minister and the Government are trying to balance this [economy vs health] every day but we are only seeing half the equation," Jackson says. "The government is being pressured by every New Zealander to open up, so let's give every New Zealand the other half of the equation."

"So when you think I want to go away at Christmas, if the government then tells you if you take COVID away with you this is what we believe, this is what might happen. 

Since every New Zealander is putting so much pressure on the government and I think it's in the government's interest to share far more about the 421,000 people who aren't vaccinated and for us as double jabbed to go out and talk to every person that isn't jabbed and talk things through."