Coronavirus: My Vaccine Pass rollout - 'damn impressive' or a 'shambles'?

A senior Labour MP has claimed the My Vaccine Pass rollout is going "outstandingly well", despite the Ministry of Health having to issue 70,000 exemptions for people whose applications haven't been processed in time for its first day.

The country switched from alert levels to the COVID-19 Protection Framework on Friday, otherwise known as the 'traffic light' system, which - in David Parker's words - changes our approach "border protection to vaccine protection".

There are different rules at each level for different industries, but the general gist is that businesses which check visitors' vaccination status will be allowed to serve more people. Anyone who's had two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca vaccines here in New Zealand, or any of the approved vaccines overseas - including Covishield, Moderna, Sinopharm, Coronavac and Covaxin - can get a pass. 

For those vaccinated locally with a good grasp on technology, getting the pass onto their phones has been simple. But some people who got their jabs overseas have run into problems - one person telling RNZ they've opted to just get vaccinated again, thinking that might be quicker than waiting for officials to process her application. 

"It's a shambles," National COVID-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop told The AM Show on Friday. 

"I've been contacted by many New Zealanders who have been vaccinated overseas who can't get their overseas vaccinations recognised in the system, so they can't get a pass today. It's unbelievable. 

"The vaccine pass system starts today, traffic light day, and you've got people who literally can't get the passes, and because they can't get the passes, they can't go out for dinner tonight because they got vaccinated overseas. Unbelievable."

Parker - appearing with Bishop - said unlike people whose vaccinations were done here and are logged in our database, there was a process for checking overseas jabs that takes time. 

"We can't just accept it at face value… We are rolling out a new system as we transition from border protection to vaccine protection. Yeah, there will be a few bugs in the system as there have been as we've done things urgently all the way through here, but I think it's a pretty remarkable turnaround since Delta arrived in August."

He said more than 3 million Kiwis had successfully got their passes since they became available on November 17, which he called "pretty damn impressive". 

"Every step in this process is hard, every piece of it is complicated. There is so much under the hood when you change from border protection to vaccine protection, and I think it's going outstandingly well."

Bishop said they should have been available earlier, which irked Parker.

"Let's get real here. Last week your party was telling us to throw open the doors, let everyone in from overseas, you're going far too slow. Now we've got Omicron to deal with. You second-guess everything and you're normally wrong." 

Omicron is a new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, discovered last week in South Africa. Early data suggests it's far more infectious than Delta, and better at evading protection offered by the current vaccines and immunity generated through prior infection. Scientists are furiously trying to understand the implications it might have on the course of the pandemic.