Judith Collins compares vaccine rollout to Labour's failed KiwiBuild scheme

National Party leader Judith Collins says the vaccine rollout has failed to live up to the Government's promises, comparing it to the ill-fated KiwiBuild programme. 

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins on Tuesday said the rollout was perhaps gaining too much momentum, with the country on track to possibly run out of doses before the next batch arrives. 

"Based on what we've got in the country and what we're expecting to get between now and the end of June, it's possible by late June we will have a supply problem," he told The AM Show.

Collins told The AM Show on Wednesday it was a "complete mess". 

"It's another KiwiBuild - total non-delivery. We are now 120th in the world when it comes to vaccinations. So we're not hard and fast, or whatever we're being told we are... we're not front of the queue, we're end of the queue."

The shortfall has arisen because in March, New Zealand changed tack. The original plan was to source vaccines from four different suppliers - Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Novavax and Janssen (subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson). But with Novavax's vaccine running into delays and concerns over the safety and efficacy of the AstraZeneca and Janssen jabs, the Government decided to go all-in with Pfizer

Problem is, the Pfizer jab - developed with German company BioNTech - is in high demand around the world. Its new technology, based on mRNA, has proven to not just have high efficacy but fewer serious side-effects than most of the other vaccines developed and the ability to cut transmission - something that wasn't clear until a speedy and successful rollout in Israel

Collins said the delay has left us languishing at 120th in the world when it comes to administering vaccines.

"It's basically showing we are at the bottom of the world when it comes to vaccinations... Australia is charging ahead again. This is not good enough. We should be up there - we understand Australia and New Zealand are in a better situation... when it comes to COVID-19 in the community, but they're now way ahead of us in vaccines."

Judith Collins.
Judith Collins. Photo credit: Newshub

According to various trackers, New Zealand is trailing Australia - we've administered about 6.2 doses per 100 people, while they're on 10. But a New York Times analysis shows we're near the back of the pack when it comes to high-income countries, ahead of only Japan and Trinidad and Tobago. Australia is ahead of South Korea, Mauritius and Oman as well, but we're both well behind the likes of the US, UK, Germany, Italy and Spain - all of whom have had devastating waves of COVID-19.

New Zealand's rollout is still ahead of most lower-middle and low-income countries, the New York Times analysis shows. 

Where we rank overall depends on what you measure exactly - whether it's doses given, number fully vaccinated, etc - and not all countries have up-to-date data. But based on figures collected by Our World in Data and the World Health Organization, as well as analysis from the New York Times and Financial Times, Collins' placing us at 120th is about right.

Labour MPs have pointed out New Zealand has been in the envious position of being able to take a careful approach to its vaccine rollout, with no known community transmission of the virus occurring.

Hipkins on Tuesday said when the next batches of vaccines arrive at the end of June, the vaccine rollout will ramp up further. 

"There may be a period of a couple of days, a week, maybe two weeks at the outside I think, where we have to slow down a little bit while we wait for more vaccines to arrive... Supply has been by far the biggest constraint here. 

"As soon as we get big quantities of vaccines in the country, the evidence suggests that [district health boards] are ready to ramp up. When they're getting up around 16,000 a day, that's a good sign."