Duncan Garner: New Zealand's vaccination programme is failing

The AM Show 13/04/2021

OPINION: It's pretty clear to me New Zealand's COVID-19 vaccination programme has some serious problems.

It's a flop, it's behind time, it's tardy, it's slow - in other words 'it's failing'.

There simply aren't enough professional vaccinators and in many ways the robustness and capability of our health workforce has been found out. 

To vaccinate the entire country we need to be doing 30,000 immunisations a day, seven days a week but we can't and we haven't.

We're doing an underwhelming 5000 a day and at this rate, get this, it'll take 5 years to vaccinate the country.

Why do we seem so incapable at times of going big? Why can't we roll out stage one on time? Does that mean we ordinary folk might now get it much later? Probably.

For more than a decade now we haven't hired enough doctors and nurses, we haven't paid parts of the workforce well enough, so we lost them. We haven't incentivised the training and we haven't retained them.

Behind our COVID-19 success has been a fair degree of luck. And it's been guess work too.

The Government didn't even know how many frontline workers it had - let alone how many still haven't -  had the jab. For the record, it's 538 staff on the frontline unvaccinated. 

Why do they allow this? It's bonkers.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told me last week half of all those being trained to give the jab are giving other immunisations instead.

"They are doing other vaccinations. For example, they might be doing flu jabs or might be doing MMR vaccines," Hipkins said.

So I put that to the PM on Friday.

"I guess what I am questioning a little bit there, the idea that you are saying that we have got people who could be vaccinating who aren't," Ardern said.

I got it from a pretty reliable source, actually, Prime Minister. 

"About 1600 - I don't have the exact number - people who have done that vaccinator training at the moment. Not all of those are active vaccinators," Hipkins said.

That was your COVID-19 minister.

"What I am questioning is your statement around that, Duncan," Ardern said.

So, are you satisfied with the rollout so far? We put this to Hipkins and the Prime Minister.

"I would like it to be a bit faster," Hipkins said.

"With the vaccination rollout generally, yes," Ardern said. 

Nothing to see here. Everything is fine thanks. 

Would someone tell Hipkins to get with the vaccination programme and stick to the script.

It's shabby when we need it to be slick.

Duncan Garner hosts The AM Show.