'Actually, it's happening': Simon Bridges offers 'mea culpa' over vaccine pessimism

Simon Bridges has offered a mea culpa, admitting he was wrong to recently doubt a vaccine for COVID-19 was on the horizon.  

In October, the National MP accused Labour MP David Parker of "sounding like The Donald" for saying a vaccine would arrive soon

Parker, in a number of appearances on The AM Show in recent months, has predicted New Zealand would have access to a vaccine by June next year - despite the virus being new to science, discovered less than 12 months ago. 

Bridges said this made Parker sound like Donald Trump, who repeatedly claimed a vaccine would be available before the US election in early November. 

This didn't eventuate, with vaccine developers keen to make sure they'd got it right before seeking approval for use. But the US President - whose handling of the pandemic has been an unmitigated disaster - was right to be optimistic.

And with a few candidates showing better-than-expected results in trials, and one already approved for use in the UK, it looks like Parker's estimate of June might have been conservative. 

"Mea culpa," Bridges told The AM Show on Friday. "I said a few weeks back I was sceptical about all of this - actually, it's happening. Donald Trump and David Parker were both right."

The vaccine being rolled out in the UK is made by Pfizer and BioNTech. Our Government in October signed an agreement to purchase 1.5 million doses, enough for 750,000 people. It's signed a deal for another vaccine, one made by Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen, which will be available late 2021 if it passes its trials.

"I've always said that I'm confident by the middle of next year we'll have widespread rollout of a vaccine," said Parker, appearing with Bridges on The AM Show. "We might not be across the whole of the population by then."

Bridges and Parker.
Bridges and Parker. Photo credit: The AM Show

Without widespread community transmission, New Zealand isn't under as much time pressure to widely inoculate the population. But the longer it takes, the more risk there is of another outbreak. 

The Ministry of Health's latest update says the timing remains uncertain. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hopes frontline workers and vulnerable people will get access as soon as March, but it "won't happen in one fell swoop". MedSafe will have to approve any vaccines first, regardless of their trial results. 

The UK, which has been hit hard by COVID-19, is expected to begin vaccinations next week.