Government declares October 16 'National Day of Action' to drive up COVID-19 vaccination rates

The Government has declared October 16 the 'National Day of Action' to try and drive up COVID-19 vaccination rates.

With half of the eligible population of New Zealand fully vaccinated and more than 80 percent with at least one dose, the Government desperately wants to reach the remaining 20 percent who have not yet received one dose. 

"We've got a plan and to make it work we're asking everyone to contribute to a big, nationwide push for vaccination. This will culminate in a National Day of Action for vaccination on Saturday 16 October," COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said on Wednesday. 

"On that day, we will have vaccine clinics open throughout Aotearoa all day and into the evening. A bit like Election Day, we will be asking all our political and civic leaders to contribute to a big collective effort to turn people out."

The National Party tweeted a response confirming support for the 'National Day of Action'.

"National have responded to a letter from the Govt asking us to support this National Day of Action with confirmation that we are completely on board."

The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners has welcomed the national call to action for all eligible Kiwis to get vaccinated.

"GPs across the country have stepped up hugely in the vaccine rollout while under extraordinary pressure," said College President and Wellington GP Dr Samantha Murton.

"We recognise that this will add extra workload, but it is the right thing to do, and we are in discussion with the Ministry of Health to see how we can make this work."

The Ministry of Health (MoH) is now advising people to consider shortening the gap between doses of the Pfizer vaccine than the current standard of six weeks. 

"Reducing the gap between doses to at least three weeks means more people can be fully vaccinated sooner, increasing our community immunity," MoH said in a statement on Wednesday. 

In August, the standard gap between first and second doses was extended from three weeks to six weeks to allow officials more time to give one dose - which provides partial protection - to a larger number of people faster.

"Since that time the Delta outbreak has increased the risk of contracting COVID-19 for everyone in New Zealand and increased the urgency for people to be vaccinated as soon as possible," MoH said. 

Hipkins had a message to the 80 percent of the eligible population who have had their first dose: "Your job is not done."

"Please get your second dose, and help us reach those who have not yet come forward to be vaccinated," Hipkins said. 

"We need you to be talking to them about the reasons you've been vaccinated, we need you to make sure they are getting reliable, honest information about the vaccine. And we need you to help us to get the unvaccinated, vaccinated.

"We are asking our business community, our media, and our community groups to play a role too. Those that want to offer incentives to the unvaccinated to get them in the door are encouraged to do so.

"We want parents and grandparents to encourage young New Zealanders to take up the opportunity to be vaccinated. We also want young people to check in with any older family members who aren't yet vaccinated, show them where they can find reliable and accurate information online, and help the whole whānau to be protected.

"We must leave no stone unturned. No one should be left behind because they haven't had the support they need to make an informed choice to be vaccinated."

Hipkins also announced a new team of 30 has been mobilised to support disabled people to access transport and get vaccinated in a way that suits their needs.

To speak with a support specialist, people can call the COVID Vaccination Healthline on 0800 28 29 26 for free 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday and dial '2' to speak to one of the team.

"I'm encouraged to see the team is already having a positive impact, supporting over 440 disabled people in the first two weeks since the team began taking calls," said Disability Issues Minister Carmel Sepuloni.