Saturday, December 4

Vaccination rates are a consideration when the cabinet meets, says prime minister

Vaccination rates in Auckland will be taken into consideration when Cabinet meets today to assess whether the city is ready for another loosening of its current restrictions.

Jacinda Ardern at a vaccination center in Kawakawa

Jacinda Ardern at a vaccination center in Kawakawa
Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Last week a decision was announced in principle to allow the city to go to alert level 3, step 2, starting at 11:59 p.m. tomorrow night.

Manukau counties DHB reached 90 percent of the first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine yesterday, putting all three Auckland DHBs within the range of the government’s 90 percent double-dose vaccination target.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Morning report The Cabinet now had more information than in the first part of the pandemic and factors such as vaccination rates would be taken into account.

“Previously, we had not been able to take into account things like the vaccination rate … We have particularly high vaccination rates in Auckland and that is part of our consideration now.”

The easing of restrictions that had already occurred in the city was not responsible for a recent increase in the number of cases, Ardern said.

“The things that we have alleviated to date have not contributed to the cases that we have. Actually, they don’t seem to be predominantly workplaces, nor those outdoor gatherings … it is still predominantly the indoor household gathering (where spreads is happening). “

Ardern acknowledged that compliance with strict restrictions decreased over time.

“The models assume compliance with the restrictions in place for a constant period of time and we cannot assume that people can stay at that level for a very, very long period.

“After about 60 days, he saw an escalation in Australia; he also saw a change here during that period of time, so I think we need to take that into account as well.”

More information on whether or not elementary students will be able to return to school on November 15 is likely to be announced Wednesday, Ardern said.

Auckland residents ‘will be able to move’ during the summer

Ardern reiterated his promise that Auckland residents could “move and reconnect” beyond the Auckland boundary during the Christmas and summer period.

The detail of how that would work in the context of the new framework was still being finalized.

“What we have talked about openly is the logistical challenges we are working on to achieve it in the safest way possible …

“So 30-40,000 [vehicle] movements; the question we are looking at is how to make that as simple as possible, if at all possible. “

It had never intended to maintain strict regional borders in the long term, Ardern said.

“It has been a temporary function and we have to find a way to get away from it.”

There is no indication of when younger children can be vaccinated.

Ardern was unable to give any firm indication as to when pediatric doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine might be available in New Zealand.

She said that Pfizer was now providing vaccine data to regulators.

“That then has to go to Medsafe first, then the second leg for New Zealand is considered by a technical advisory group that we also have and then beyond that you see the ability to roll out.”

Ardern said the group of technical advisers took “a reasonable amount of time” when considering whether the vaccine should be approved for older children and expected the process to be similar for the 5 to 11-year-old age group.

It confirmed that New Zealand had ordered doses from Pfizer for the age group 5 to 11 years.

‘Make sure we have protected the Maori community’

Maori health leader Dr Rawiri Jansen is concerned that easing of restrictions in Auckland will lead to a rapid increase in cases and put Maori at risk.

“I believe that the Maori, being the least vaccinated population, the most vulnerable population, are literally in danger. We see that in terms of the Delta outbreak right now, in terms of deaths, and in terms of case numbers.

“That is very worrying for the Maori communities.”

Jansen, co-director of the Te Rōpū Whakakaupapa Urutā Maori National Pandemic Group, said that with the housing crisis that dragged on for years, many people were in temporary housing or overcrowded homes.

“That’s where the virus travels – it’s really hard to isolate, it’s really hard to handle domestic bubbles in those settings, and we haven’t done enough to protect those communities.”

Auckland’s Maori population, 79 percent first dose and 63 percent fully vaccinated, “was definitely not enough to loosen restrictions.”

The Maori population came to the vaccination program later because they were a younger population and yet they were doing a fantastic job of catching up, he said.

Their threshold would be 90 percent of the fully vaccinated Maori population.

“But I’m very interested in us reaching out and reaching the five to 11 year olds in the eligible group because that’s a really significant proportion of our population.

“We could be in a position to vaccinate children from five to 11 years old in the first week of December.

His message to Ardern was “make sure we have protected the Maori community, the most vulnerable parts of our society need our care and protection now”.

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