1 million Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses arriving in July, general population roll-out can go 'as planned' - Chris Hipkins

Pfizer has scheduled the delivery of an estimated 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in July, meaning the roll-out to the general population can go ahead as planned. 

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said it will double the total number of Pfizer doses New Zealand has received this year to more than 1,900,000 - enough to fully vaccinate almost 1 million Kiwis. 

"This is great news and reassuring to see our vaccine supply ramping up. It shows our plan for what is the biggest and most complex logistical undertaking ever by the health system is on track," Hipkins said on Tuesday. 

"The doses will arrive in weekly drops, ramping up in quantity from mid-July as we start to move to the wider population rollout," he said, adding that it gives "the certainty needed to start the general population rollout as planned".

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at her post-Cabinet press conference the doses will likely arrive near the end of July, but that DHBs won't run out before then. 

Ardern said Cabinet will make decisions about the wider roll-out of vaccines next Monday and the outcome of those discussions, on things like the booking system, will be announced next week.

Ardern also confirmed she will get vaccinated before the end of June. 

It comes amid criticism that the Government's vaccine roll-out has been too slow. Global vaccine data shows New Zealand sits well below the OECD average of doses administered so far. 

Newshub revealed last week that just over 60 percent of a group labelled 'high-risk' by the Government was yet to receive their first vaccination, and only half of another group - also high-risk - had received their first shots.

And on Saturday the NZ Herald reported 3800 border workers were still yet to get their first jab, as were half of their 50,000 or so household contacts. 

With confirmation of the 1 million additional doses, Hipkins said District Health Boards (DHBs) can keep delivering to their plans and start accelerating their way through Group 3 from mid-July, which is everyone over the age of 65 and people with disabilities and some underlying health conditions.  

He said around 20,000 doses a day were currently being administered and the Pfizer deliveries throughout July will enable this to increase significantly. At the peak of the programme in August and September, the Government expects to be administering 50,000 doses per day.

"This will add to the significant momentum already being generated by New Zealand's vaccine programme."

To date, the Government has fully vaccinated more than a quarter of a million people, which Hipkins described as "a pleasing milestone". 

"Our strategy has meant we've largely avoided having to stretch the time between first and second doses as many countries have," he said. 

"Work is well advanced to set up more vaccination sites, deliver mass vaccination events, and bring more GPs and pharmacies on-board to help with the roll-out.

"While we know the ongoing pandemic can impact vaccine delivery schedules, Pfizer has given us further assurances that the remaining deliveries for 2021 are also on track, just as their deliveries to date have been."

Hipkins said the Government has vaccinated more people than planned for at this point in time and more than 6800 vaccinators have completed the necessary training to administer the Pfizer vaccine.

"We have at our disposal one of the best vaccines in the world and starting later next month we will start making it available, for free, to everyone in New Zealand over the age of 16."