Thursday, March 11, 2021

Kate Hawkesby: We need far more clarity on the vaccine rollout


I’m glad we’re talking vaccine rollout, it’s high time we get some set dates and times around this. It was after all November last year that Chris Hipkins told us from the pulpit of truth that we’d be ‘at the front of the queue.’

It’s high time the government start looking forwards. So group one is the border and MIQ workers, group two is frontline workers and those in high risk settings, health workers, and South Aucklanders over 65 with underlying health issues.

Next up is priority populations, that’s about 1.7 million Kiwis, and following them is everybody else, vaccines for all should start rolling out in July.

So a plan at last, and by no means one that involves us being at the front of the queue – or indeed anywhere close.

Velocity of the vaccine rollout is critical. The rest of the world is romping through their rollouts at pace. Many other countries will be vaccinated before we even start our general population in July. And July is still a long way off.  But wait – there’s more – Hipkins says these dates are flexible. They better not be any later than what he’s promising.. it’s already embarrassingly slow. And as the PM herself says, it’s not when we start but when we finish.

Because for every month we wait, more countries are opening up, more international sport is on, more people are travelling. The Australians say they’ll have their vaccine rollout done by October, in the Netherlands every citizen’s been given their vaccination dates, Israel as we know is two thirds of the way through.

My nephew, a foreign student in the US studying at University there, is registered on a wait list to be vaccinated this Friday. In most countries it’s all hands to the pump. Pace is important and we have to jab at speed.

In the UK they’ve called in retired nurses and injectors, anyone that can put a needle in an arm is getting the call up. There're vaccination stations in the UK and the US opening up 24 hours to push people through. Are we doing those things here? Will we? Some say we don’t have enough trained vaccinators, some say the bureaucracy around who can vaccinate and how, is too intense and too slow, others allege the government’s just been too slow on decision making. And this is where Cabinet needs to move faster. Livelihoods, businesses, the tourism industry, all depend on it.

There are two further categories the government is looking at.. people who need a vaccine on compassionate grounds, and groups who may need vaccinating in order to travel to represent New Zealand overseas. Hipkins said yesterday that these decisions will be made ‘in the coming weeks’. But the government simply has to keep its foot on the gas here. It’s great to announce a plan – albeit with a caveat that it’s ‘flexible’ .. but rolling out that plan in a pacey fashion is crucial. Not just for our most vulnerable, but in order to flip the ‘closed’ sign on this country’s door, to ‘open’.

Kate Hawkesby is a political broadcaster on Newstalk ZB - her articles can be seen HERE.

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