COVID-19 vaccine rollout botch-up: Potentially thousands of ineligible Kiwis invited for jabs

There has been a major botch-up with the Government's vaccine rollout - and neither the Ministry of Health nor the COVID-19 Response Minister can say how big the problem is. 

Potentially thousands of Kiwis are scratching their heads after receiving texts from their GPs inviting them to be vaccinated - even though they're nowhere near eligible. At the same time, some of those who are eligible still can't get the jab. 

Jan Pentecost, 77, is concerned she still can't receive a vaccine despite supposedly being eligible. 

"It's confusing," she told Newshub. "It's really hard to understand why given that we are the most vulnerable."

Meanwhile, 20-year-old Morgan Kemp is puzzled. On Thursday, he got a text inviting him to get a COVID-19 vaccine, which said he's in the over-65 group, or Group 3. 

"I am perplexed by this and I think given the circumstances, they need to prioritise who they're getting this to," he told Newshub. 

Newshub's political editor Tova O'Brien - who is much younger than 65 - also got a text.

They're among hundreds - possibly thousands - of ineligible Kiwis who got the vaccine call-up.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins acknowledges it was a mistake. 

"Clearly if they had no other reason to be getting a message," he said. "I do know that quite a large number of messages went out in the last 48 hours or so."

Neither the Ministry of Health nor Hipkins had any idea about the scale of the problem.

"I don't have a breakdown," Hipkins said. 

The wider population - like Morgan and Tova - will not begin receiving their vaccinations until after August, whereas vaccinations for Group 3 have been underway since May - that's the over-65s. It includes those who have a health condition or are pregnant, disabled, caring for someone with a disability, or in prison.

"People want to do the right thing and they are concerned about why they're getting these random text messages saying they're in Group 3 when they're not," says National's COVID-19 response spokesperson Chris Bishop.

The Ministry of Health told Newshub a small number of people have contacted them about wrongly being offered a jab, but the ministry didn't thinik it was a systemic problem. 

And Newshub can reveal another inconsistency with vaccines - this time over compassionate exemptions from managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ). Desperate returnees wanting to visit a dying loved one aren't being allowed out of isolation even if they're vaccinated. 

Mark Grey tried to get out after his mum took a turn. He'd had three negative tests and a dose of AstraZeneca.

"They're not going to let you out. And if I'd known that I wouldn't have tried and I wouldn't have got my hopes up," he told Newshub. 

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) deputy chief executive Megan Main, the joint head of MIQ, said the bar is set high.

"It's a very high bar because the primary role of MIQ is to help people come back to New Zealand while keeping COVID out of the community," he said. 

But here's the inconsistency: international air crew will no longer have to isolate themselves if they're fully vaccinated.

"We are still locked into our hotel rooms overseas but when we come back now we don't have to go into a hotel in Auckland and have another three days by yourself," New Zealand Airline Pilots Association president Andrew Ridling says. 

It's great news for air crews, but like the vaccine rollout itself, the Government has created another muddle.