Greens say lack of full COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan is 'unacceptable'

The Greens have taken a crack at the Government's lack of a detailed COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan, labelling it unacceptable. 

Green Party COVID-19 response spokesperson Julie Anne Genter has joined National and ACT in questioning why the Government is so far behind Australia in producing a full prioritisation plan.

"We need a clear coordinated approach which prioritises our most vulnerable right now," Genter told Newshub. "To not have this system already clear and publicly available like our neighbours in Australia is unacceptable."

New Zealand has outlined border staff and their families getting the first jabs and then non-border facing health workers, but Australia's goes beyond that, with its plan that includes several phases of who will be prioritised. 

The first phase, 1a, includes quarantine and border staff, frontline health staff including ambulance and paramedic services, as well as aged care and disability workers and residents - like New Zealand's plan. 

The next phase, 1b, includes elderly, other healthcare workers, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people older than 55, adults with underlying health conditions, and critical workers such as police and emergency staff. 

Phase 2a then prioritises adults aged 50 and above, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 18 to 54, and other critical workers. From there, the priority list goes down the age groups. The number of doses is also outlined for each group. 

Australians can also use a simple online eligibility checker to find out when they are due for the vaccine based on their health, age, ethnicity and job. 

"Once they've filled out the simple eligibility check, Australians are given clarity on when they are due for vaccination, for example those in category 1b will start receiving vaccinations in mid-March 2021," Genter said. 

"We have done such an excellent job at keeping COVID-19 largely out of New Zealand, but a coordinated, fair and equitable vaccine rollout is critical to ensure this good work continues."

Green MP Julie Anne Genter.
Green MP Julie Anne Genter. Photo credit: Getty

ACT leader David Seymour has described New Zealand's rollout plan so far as an "insulting lottery" process. 

"An organised Government would have laid the details of a national vaccine rollout strategy already, just as the Australian Government did over a month before its first vaccine arrived," he said. 

"It simply won't wash for the Government to claim not knowing how soon vaccines will arrive will impact their ability to inform New Zealanders of these basic elements of the rollout."

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told The AM Show on Tuesday the Government will release its vaccine rollout plan on Wednesday now that there is more certainty.

The Government on Monday announced it had purchased an additional 8.5 million Pfizer vaccines, bringing the total to 10 million - enough to vaccinate every New Zealander with the same brand. 

The Government's original agreement with Pfizer was for approximately 1.5 million doses, enough to vaccinate 750,000 people. It also ordered 5 million from Janssen, 3.8 million from AstraZeneca and 5.36 million from Novavax. 

"We will tomorrow be releasing the overall sequencing framework for the rest of the year. We're just doing the final kind of finishing touches on that," Hipkins said. 

"We couldn't lock that down until we knew exactly what vaccine we were using and when we were expecting it to arrive. We were able to confirm that information with Pfizer late last week. That means we can now lock all that down and we can share that with people tomorrow."

He said it's likely that elderly will be prioritised as well as people with pre-existing health conditions that could make them more vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19. 

The third shipment of Pfizer vaccines last week added a further 65,500 doses, bringing the total number of COVID-19 vaccines in New Zealand to 200,000. 

The general public will start getting vaccinated from mid-year.