New Zealand should aim for more than 90 percent of the vaccinated eligible population to reach the point where society can cope with the Delta variant, says epidemiologist Rod Jackson.
Jackson said Nine at noon dealing with a rapidly spreading delta variant requires the highest level of vaccination possible. “Now I would say that more than 90 percent is what we should aspire to.”
If the virus spreads among essential workers, more restrictions would be needed, he said.
“If in the next few days we find that that continues to happen, then we will have to go to something like level 4.5 and that will be particularly important for essential workers.
“Everyone will need to be vaccinated, everyone will need to wear N95 masks. Everyone will have to try harder to keep this infection at bay.
“The only sure thing in this whole pandemic is that if you keep infected people away from uninfected people, we will hit you on the head.”
Jackson said that working on best practices with Delta is new territory for the world, and everyone was behind the game.
But New Zealand simply didn’t have enough vaccines and should look to bring in others, he said.
On Friday, nearly 90,000 vaccinations were administered, the second-highest daily total to date.
Deputy Health Minister Ayesha Verrall said the government would try to find a way to keep vaccination rates at the higher rate, rather than the 50,000 to 60,000 per day that is sustainable with current supply arrangements.
“We just don’t have enough vaccines, so we need to find a way to avoid it, and you know that one of the ways to avoid it is to introduce other vaccines.”
In addition to the Pfizer vaccine, Medsafe has approved the AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines.
“For those who want to get it now, I think we should seriously consider other vaccines.”
The best situation for health and the economy was still elimination, which simply meant that the virus was not currently spreading in the community.
“In NSW that may not be possible anymore. It may have gotten out of hand, so … their hand may have been forced and they may be in the crackdown, which is keeping this at bay, trying to keep the numbers low. “
The biggest threat in the short term is exponential spread, but looking into the long term, models are being worked on to determine how to handle the virus once the vaccine is offered to everyone.
“Basically, it is like this, that either you are going to get Covid, or you get vaccinated. If you get vaccinated, some people will continue to get Covid, but for a vaccinated person, Covid is like a serious flu. If you are unvaccinated it is at least 20 times worse than a flu, it’s a different disease.
“The model for Australia, and I think it will probably be very similar in New Zealand, is that if you get 90 percent of eligible vaccinated, then you can have 1,000 deaths.”
In addition to reducing the potential number of deaths, a vaccination rate greater than 90 percent would help hospitalization rates.
People in the ICU with Covid-19 require more staff and resources, and would keep out two or three other people who might need to be there, Jackson said.
“My plea is that all New Zealanders and all commentators come up with innovative and constructive ways to help those who hesitate to get vaccinated.”
He said that the vast majority of people who had not yet been vaccinated or who had not made an appointment were not against vaccines, but were hesitant.