Coronavirus: 'Front of the queue' comment was about AstraZeneca vaccines, not Pfizer - Labour MP David Parker

A senior Labour MP has dismissed ongoing criticism and mockery of Chris Hipkins' claim last year New Zealand would be "at the front of the queue" for COVID-19 vaccines. 

The COVID-19 Response Minister in November told TVNZ's Breakfast the country was "in a very good place to ensure that as vaccines start to come to market, New Zealand will be at the front of the queue to be getting vaccines".  

Fast forward seven months, and we're currently ranked about 120th in the world when it comes to total doses per capita - about 0.21. 

"We've got to vaccinate and we are literally slowest in the world I think," Simon Bridges told The AM Show on Friday, somewhat inaccurately - some countries have barely started vaccinating at all. 

"That's where the priority should be," he added. 

Labour MP David Parker, appearing with Bridges on The AM Show, said New Zealand was focusing on getting people fully vaccinated, rather than partially.

'When you look at people who have had both jabs, we're very successful. We're getting people to have both of their shots, we're getting the follow-up shot done as it ought to be. A lot of countries are having trouble doing that."

New Zealand is actually ranked better, somewhere around 95th in the world, on that metric - our figure of 8 percent slightly behind the world average of 10 percent, according to Our World in Data. 

But that doesn't mean Hipkins was wrong when he said in November we'd be "front of the queue", said Parker - who noted we were planning on getting vaccines from four different suppliers at the time before "we started to understand there was a difference in efficacy".

In March the Government changed tack, deciding to base the rollout on the Pfizer-BioNTech jab, which was proving successful overseas, while others - such as those made by Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca - were being linked to rare cases of blood clots. 

"We could have got AstraZeneca at the start and we made the right choice not to... the countries that have relied upon AstraZeneca, they've got not as good an outcome in the end. That vaccine, when everyone is vaccinated, it's 60 percent effective. If you do Pfizer, then it's more than 90 percent."

The AstraZeneca vaccine is actually more effective than that against the original strains of COVID-19, but only 60 percent effective against infection with the highly infectious Delta variant. It's still very effective at preventing severe illness and hospitalisation.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine does appear to be better than the AstraZeneca jab at preventing infection with the Delta variant, but both struggle if the recipient has only had one dose.

The Government has repeatedly said the vaccine rollout is ahead of schedule. 

"This is going very well in my opinion," said Parker. "The target is based on the available medicines. You cannot vaccinate if you haven't got the medicines. We get another million in July. I reckon we will finish faster than a lot of the world. 

"Simon said a couple of weeks ago it's not how you start, it's how you finish. I think this is going well."

"If you want to stop community transmission and even worse, a lockdown, you've got to get on with the vaccinations - so I think we all share that goal," added Bridges.