COVID-19 vaccine bookings for 50-plus brought forward due to 'strong uptake'

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins.
COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins. Photo credit: Getty

COVID-19 vaccination bookings for people aged 50 and above are being brought forward to this Friday due to "strong uptake" from the 60-plus and 55-plus age groups. 

"We opened the 55-plus band 10 days after 60-plus, instead of the planned two weeks, and are now opening 50-plus after seven days," COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said on Monday. 

The original plan, unveiled by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern June, was to start vaccinating the 55-plus age group from August 11, this Wednesday, but that group is already able to book jabs.

"Being able to open another age band so quickly is a real confidence booster and shows how well New Zealand is embracing the vaccine," Hipkins said. 

There are about 300,000 people in the 50-plus age group. 

People in the 50-plus group who are eligible don't have to wait to receive an invitation. They can make their own booking from Friday at 8am by visiting here, or by calling 0800 28 29 26. 

Hipkins described last week as the "best yet" in the vaccination programme. 

"We reached two million doses on Tuesday and by the end of the week passed more than 2,200,000 doses in total. On the Wednesday we set a record of 45,082 doses in one day across the country.

"The booking system continues to perform well with a record 296,650 vaccinations booked last week. We now have 1,009,536 vaccinations booked in the system. Over the last three days the 0800 call centre handled 27,695 calls with an average wait time of less than 1 minute."

A million doses of the Pfizer vaccine were delivered in July, and another 1.5 million will be delivered in August, 388,000 of these arriving on Sunday morning.

It comes as Tauranga faces a COVID-19 scare, with the Ministry of Health confirming 11 crew of the container ship Rio De La Plata, tested positive for COVID-19. 

Officials have worked with employers to identify 94 port workers who had contact with the ship.

The Ministry of Health understands from local public health staff that all infection prevention controls, and PPE protocol, were followed by port workers who had contact with the ship during their duties.

But National's COVID-19 response spokesperson Chris Bishop has released District Health Board data showing that, of the 530 frontline border workers in the Bay of Plenty, 319 haven't had a single jab. 

"This is incredibly concerning. Frontline workers were meant to have been vaccinated months ago. We have a glaring hole in our border," Bishop said. 

"Bay of Plenty with our largest port workforce is the worse with 60 percent of their workers unvaccinated, that's higher than the average for all port workers, which is still shockingly at 40 percent unvaccinated.

"Given the extraordinarily low rate of vaccinated port workers in the Bay of Plenty, why wasn't the crew tested before the ship was allowed to berth?

"It's unbelievable that the Government has let six months pass and there are still huge numbers of port workers unvaccinated. New Zealand urgently needs a national plan to get as many port workers vaccinated as possible."

From August 26 all Government-employed port workers will have to have been vaccinated by law, and by the end of September it will apply to all port workers.