Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern invites New Zealanders aged 60+ to get COVID-19 vaccinations

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is inviting Kiwis aged 60 and above to book their COVID-19 vaccination, as the rollout shifts into the next phase. 

It's the first time New Zealanders in Group 4 - the final eligibility cohort - have been invited to get a jab, except for those who have underlying health issues. 

Group 4 is big, with more than 2 million people - so it's been broken down by age bands. The first band is people aged 60 and over, who can now book jabs by clicking here or by phoning 0800 28 29 26. 

"We're opening up to 60+," Ardern said at a press conference on Wednesday. 

"My ask of the team of 5 million is simple: get vaccinated. You don't need to look far to see why this is so important. 

"The Delta variant is spreading around the world. Even nations with high rates of vaccination are seeing daily cases in the tens of thousands and hospitalisations and deaths.

"In New Zealand, while we've avoided the worst of COVID, we are not out of the woods yet. For the vaccine to be as effective as possible, we need everyone to have it. 

"In order to safely shift our wall of defence from our borders to the individual armour that the vaccine provides, it relies on high rates of vaccination."

But not everyone in Group 3 - that's people aged 65 and over, as well as those with underlying health conditions or disabilities - have been vaccinated yet. Ardern said 70 percent of Group 3 are either vaccinated or have booked in. 

"We've given that window," Ardern said. 

So far, more than 1.7 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been administered in New Zealand, while almost 700,000 have received their second dose, meaning they'll be fully vaccinated. 

Ardern said 350,000 doses arrived in New Zealand on Tuesday, bringing total deliveries for July to 1 million, with 1.5 million more due to arrive in August. 

ACT leader David Seymour said earlier this week Ardern owes Kiwis an apology for the slow vaccine rollout that has seen New Zealand at the bottom of the OECD. 

It came after Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison apologised for the rate of vaccinations in his country, saying: "I'm sorry that we haven't been able to achieve the marks that we had hoped for at the beginning of this year. Of course, I am."

International data shows Australia is ahead of New Zealand

"If Scott Morrison can be the bigger person and apologise for delivering 25 percent better results than New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern should apologise too," Seymour said. 

But Ardern has no plans to apologise to Kiwis.

"Right at the beginning of the year we said that this would be the year of the vaccine campaign; that this would be the largest undertaking of our health system around a vaccination that we have ever seen, and so far we are running according to our plans," Ardern said. 

"I'm really proud of the work our health professionals have done. Those who have been vaccinated know how well they are doing on the ground. 

"Our focus now has to be - right through to the end of the year - getting as many people vaccinated as possible."

Data from the Ministry of Health shows the vaccine rollout by District Health Boards (DHBs) is 3 percent ahead of plans. 

The next age group to be invited for jabs will be those aged 55 and over and bookings for this band will open in two weeks, on August 11. Everyone else will be vaccinated from September and October.