Kiwis to wait longer for COVID-19 vaccine amid supply issues, Govt assures it's not a delay

It appears most New Zealanders will have to wait an extra few weeks for their COVID-19 vaccine, as supply problems push the rollout back until the end of July.

The Government insists it isn't a delay - but admitted to quietly updating the Ministry of Health website last week - to reflect a shift in time frame.

On Wednesday a ribbon was cut at Ngāti Hine Health Trust, a new vaccination station in Northland.

It's hoped the station will help to cut down vaccine wait times in the area with up to 300 people able to get a jab there every day.

It was opened as there was concern the vaccine wasn't being rolled out to Whangarei's 3000 kaumatua and kuia quickly enough.

"Less than 15 percent of them will have received a vaccination so there's a lot of work to do," chief executive Geoff Milner said.

But there is even more work to be done to roll the vaccine out to the wider public. The Government is admitting the programme could slow right down.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says: "vaccine supply continues to be a challenge at the moment".

Supply issues have already hit the rollout to Group 3 - that's the over 65s and those at risk of becoming very unwell if they contract COVID-19.

An email from Canterbury District Health board seen by Newshub says the number of doses they've been allocated is insufficient to vaccinate Groups 1 and 2 so they will not start vaccinating Groups 3 and 4 until July.

Hipkins says they "simply won't have enough vaccines by the end of June to do all of Group 3".

"When we start Group 4 we'll still be having the bulk of Group 3 to do."

Group 4 - the general population - was always meant to get jabbed in July but on Friday the Ministry of Health quietly updated its website to say the rollout will start from the end of July.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says part of their job is to provide certainty "and that's what the intention was of saying, 'Yes it's going to be in July - it looks like it's more likely going to be late July'".

They tweaked the wording just three days after the Auditor General told health officials to be more transparent about supply risks.

"I accept that it may not have been the best way to convey that information but what I can say is that it's not trying to hide or obfuscate anything," Dr Bloomfield said.

But Hipkins is adamant the change doesn't signal a delay.

"Well July is July - so it'll still be from July."

Whether or not it is a delay - the time frame is confusing for those waiting on their vaccine.

Pfizer - which supplies New Zealand's main vaccine - has promised an updated delivery schedule in the next few weeks.

Hipkins says that will give Kiwis more certainty about when they'll get their jabs.