Dr Ashley Bloomfield treated to VIP cricket experience with Blackcaps, fast-tracked COVID-19 vaccines discussed

The State Services Commissioner has spoken to Dr Ashley Bloomfield after it was revealed he was treated to a VIP cricket experience with the Blackcaps and had chats in the changing rooms about getting them fast-tracked vaccines. 

But despite giving the cricketers an assurance that he would consider their pitch, the Director-General of Health has not broken any rules. 

New Zealand's first large-scale COVID-19 vaccination clinic opened in south Auckland on Tuesday, and eventually we will all have access to vaccines - but there are some big hitters looking to get their shots fast and first.

The Blackcaps and our Olympians are keen to jump the queue.

"It probably won't surprise you that a lot of sports are interested in whether or not those who have to travel overseas for competitions can get vaccinated, so I've had a number of different conversations," says Sports Minister Grant Robertson. 

The cricketers took their case to the very top, inviting Dr Bloomfield along to the T20 on Sunday, giving him the VIP treatment, where he was asked about access to vaccines. He even popped into the changing rooms and hung out with NZ cricket star Jimmy Neesham.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the Government is not susceptible to lobbying. 

"No, I mean we've got very clear criteria," she said on Tuesday. "We've used science and evidence all the way through our response."

The Ministry of Health says Dr Bloomfield attended in a private capacity and chatted to NZ Cricket CEO David White, and while there he undertook to take the matter for consideration as part of planning for the vaccine rollout - but no commitments were made. 

"People lobby Government all of the time and sports teams, I'm sure, will have actively been talking to the Minister for Sport about vaccines," says COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins.

State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes raised it with Dr Bloomfield and told Newshub the Director-General of Health is well aware of the rules, has a strong record of compliance, and has assured that he complied with the code of conduct, including declaring the invite from NZ Cricket.

So apparently no rules have been broken. But not everyone has the ability to buy a beer for Dr Bloomfield and lobby for vaccines - including those who may need it most.

"They don't have that kind of access and that is something that the Greens are saying, that actually we do want to make sure that our most vulnerable communities are the first off the rank and are protected early," says Greens co-leader James Shaw. 

Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi says: "This is about life and death. This isn't about going to play some kind of sport where you hit a ball around a paddock."

The Government is willing to address some of its decision making on COVID-19, setting up a permanent rolling review group to keep check on the response. They plan to look into the latest outbreak.

But the Government still doesn't think it did anything wrong with its communications, instead throwing the official Unite against COVID-19 group under the bus, blaming it for muddling messages about the KFC worker, known as Case L. 

"It was conflicting advice and not correct," Ardern said in Parliament. 

The virus is still knocking at our door with four new cases announced in managed isolation on Tuesday. Everything hinges on getting this right.