Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern responds to criticism of COVID-19 vaccine rollout speed

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will not take her Australian counterpart's lead and apologise for the speed of the Government's COVID-19 vaccination programme, despite New Zealand having among the slowest rollouts in the OECD.

On Thursday, leader Scott Morrison admitted Australia's vaccine rollout had been bungled and said he was "sorry we haven't been able to achieve the marks that we had hoped for at the beginning of this year".

Australia planned to administer 4 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine by the time April rolled around, but fell embarrassingly short of its goal having administered less than 600,000.

Since then, however, Australia's COVID-19 vaccine rollout has overtaken New Zealand's, with a higher proportion of the population having received one or more doses.

A graph produced by Our World In Data shows about 30 percent of Australians have received at least one dose, compared to about 19 percent of Kiwis.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern responds to criticism of COVID-19 vaccine rollout speed

Despite this, New Zealand's DHBs have been hitting their vaccination targets - sitting about 5 percent above what was planned.

However National's COVID-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop last month suggested the only reason this happened is because they were "lowball" targets to begin with, as shown by data showing we were languishing behind most other OECD countries.

This has led Bishop and other critics to point out Morrison has apologised for the pace of a COVID-19 vaccination programme that had outperformed New Zealand's.

Asked whether she would apologise at a press conference announcing the closure of the quarantine-free trans-Tasman bubble on Friday, Ardern said she bases "all [her] comments on our situation, not relative to any other country".

"We've trained 8000 vaccinators, ready to go," she said.

"They will continue to be brought on-stream as we roll out our vaccine plan, which has always been designed to continually ramp up… you can see that ramp-up is now occurring."

Ardern said the Government has always said 2021 would be "the year of the vaccine".

"In three days, we've delivered almost 100,000 doses. We're ramping up, as we expected, with the biggest delivery in July that we've had.

"And we are eternally grateful for the job vaccinators are doing with what will be the biggest and most historic vaccination campaign in New Zealand's history."

Ardern's comments come just days after the COVID-19 Response Minister shot down criticism he was "slow to even order" vaccines amid revelations the first batch wasn't requested until late January. 

Chris Hipkins revealed in written parliamentary questions from National MP Chris Bishop that the Government made its first purchase order with Pfizer on January 29, for 65,520 doses. 

Like Ardern, Hipkins noted delivery orders had been ramping up and pointed to a Pfizer delivery of more than 370,000 doses - the largest to date - as proof.