Winston Peters has blasted the Government's "inexcusably slow" COVID-19 vaccine rollout amid concerns an outbreak of the Delta variant would be a "chilling result" for the country.
So far during New Zealand's rollout, a total of 2,480,731 doses have been administered. This is made up of 1,570,000 first doses and 910,731 second doses.
The New Zealand First leader says he's worried about the country's low vaccination rates and fears a lack of action could spell bad news.
"New Zealand First is concerned at the inexcusably slow COVID vaccine rollout and predicting a chilling result for public health and a lockdown of our economy," Peters says in a release.
"New Zealand suffers from the worst vaccine rollout performance in the first world. Just as bad is the low vaccination rates for Māori and Pasifika despite Government saying these populations are the most vulnerable."
In the rollout, a total of 81,790 Māori are currently fully vaccinated and 132,307 have received their first dose. And of Pacific Peoples, 89,096 have received their first dose and 55,314 have been given their second.
Peters says "millions of dollars" have been wasted on advertising and announcements of the phased rollout - "which could never be kept". He adds not enough vaccine supplies were secured to match the vaccination targets.
"Now it is too late to achieve the herd immunisation levels needed to confront the Delta variant. Delivery against announced timetables has been months out, and a one in 10 vaccination rate of frontline border personnel at Tauranga's Port shows how vacuous Government assurances have been."
Last week, just nine of the 92 workers at the port who were potentially exposed to COVID-19 after going on board a ship with infected crewmembers were fully vaccinated. The COVID-19 tests a total of 98 people were required to take all came back negative.
Peters, who believes it's a case of when, not if, the Delta variant breaks out, says large vulnerable sections of New Zealand will have "every right to feel betrayed" if COVID-19 gets into the community.
New Zealand has gone 168 days in a row without community transmission.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Thursday New Zealand's pathway out of border closures. One focus is speeding up the vaccination process by bringing forward eligibility dates for remaining age groups.
From August 18, those aged 40+ will be eligible and 30+ will open on August 25. From September 1, all eligible ages will be able to get vaccinated.
There will also be a six-week period between doses of the vaccine to ensure more people get their first dose quicker and are at least partially vaccinated by the end of the year.
"Those who work at our border, have underlying health conditions or wish to be fully vaccinated sooner can still get their second dose after three weeks," Ardern said.