David Seymour hits out at Government's 'reckless' cost of COVID-19 vaccine ads

The Opposition is hitting out at the Government for how much it's spent on advertising the COVID-19 vaccine.

Since the rollout began last year, Newshub can reveal $43 million has been spent promoting it, which works out to around $4 per dose delivered to date. 

But as the number of people getting vaccinated wanes, the Government's spending isn't. Last month alone, $2.7 million was spent advertising the vaccine, with just over 41,000 jabs administered.

So for every dose delivered in May, $67 was spent advertising it. 

"It's a reckless use of taxpayer money. There are very few people getting vaccinated. It's possible advertising didn't even reach many of them," ACT leader David Seymour said.

But the Government is defending the spending.

"In the context of there being very few vaccine mandates, of course we still need to be out there communicating the benefits of vaccination," said Dr Ayesha Verrall, the new COVID-19 Response Minister.

Dr Nikki Turner from the Immunisation Advisory Centre said advertising is still needed to get some patients over the line.

"It's important to keep conversations going, it's important to keep information going and not shut the door," she said.

Vaccination against COVID-19 is going to remain a top priority for New Zealand for some time yet. The health system is already at a breaking point, so the more people who are boosted, the fewer there are in hospital. 

Winter illnesses are also well and truly here and the health sector's struggling to keep up.

"The numbers are escalating," Dr Turner said.

In response, the Government ramped up vaccination efforts in a bid to reduce hospital admissions.

From this Friday, the flu jab will be free to an extra 800,000 Kiwis, including children aged three to 12 and also adults with serious mental health or addiction needs.

"People with mental health issues often have poor immune responses and have been advocating for a long time that they'd benefit from the flu vaccine. So these are good to see," Dr Turner said.

And from Tuesday, anyone over the age of 50 will be eligible for their second COVID-19 booster. Healthcare workers only need to be over 30 years old to get it.

"The COVID booster's really making sure those people at the highest risk of severe COVID are protected against needing to go to hospital," Dr Verrall said.

COVID-19 is still cutting through the community, with 11 new deaths reported on Monday. A total of 5549 new community cases were also reported and 383 people are in hospital.