Coronavirus: NZ will complete COVID-19 vaccine rollout 'before a lot of other countries' - David Parker

David Parker says despite one of the slowest vaccine rollouts in the developed world, New Zealand will finish before "a lot of other countries". 

So far 891,702 doses of the two-jab Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have been administered, with 324,514 people having had their second. 

While that's ahead of the Ministry of Health's own target, it's well behind many other nations - National MP Simon Bridges saying it puts us 120th in the world.

"This is the 'year of the vaccine' - are you laughing yet?" he said on The AM Show on Friday. 

According to Our World in Data, a number of small islands with tiny populations lead the way - mostly British territories, but also Malta, Iceland and Nauru. Large countries with impressive rollouts include Canada (65 percent with at least one dose), Israel (63), Chile (62) and the UK (62). 

New Zealand is at 11.7 percent, ranking alongside Russia, Ecuador, Laos, Lebanon and Kazakhstan. 

Labour's Parker, appearing alongside Bridges, said it's because we chose to use just the Pfizer-made vaccine, and have had to ration supplies until the big shipment expected in July.

"They'll be going into people's arms as fast as they arrive. These other countries, they're still struggling with the AstraZeneca vaccine. We made the right choice to go with Pfizer." 

The AstraZeneca vaccine has shown similar effectiveness to the Pfizer jab, but doesn't perform as well against the deadly Delta variant and has been linked to rare cases of blood clots. 

Parker says if we were using other vaccines too, we wouldn't be so far behind everyone else. 

"We went Pfizer. We made that choice... If we'd gone AstraZeneca, we would be well ahead of where we are - 107 percent of target."

Simon Bridges and David Parker.
Simon Bridges and David Parker. Photo credit: The AM Show

Once the decision to start the rollout with just the Pfizer jab was made, the plan was for the slow start to ramp up dramatically when supplies became available. Before the July shipment was locked in, there were concerns we could run out - and the ramping-up has slowed accordingly, with no increase in the number of doses given in the last three weeks. 

In fact, last week saw the number of doses given each day dip slightly from 16,000 a day the week before to below 14,000. 

"We're not slowing down, we're just not speeding up," said Parker. "We had to ration the doses against arrivals. We'll finish before a lot of other countries."

University of Auckland medical professor Des Gorman told The AM Show he'd be surprised if the initial rollout was done by the end of the year. 

"I would be surprised if they do as well as that, I hope they do - I would love to be wrong... but I would be betting against it."