Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Jab job

New Zealand has begun its Covid-19 vaccination programme, and has begun to deliver greater clarity about it. The country was at a disadvantage in that being small meant bigger countries were able to muscle in to ensure their countries were at the front of the queue. However, things are now underway, and that’s what matters.

I looked into this because of a question Roger Green asked me in a comment on on my post about the travel bubble with Australia. He said:

An Ask Arthur Anything request: Just how IS the vaccine distribution in NZ (and Australia, if you know) going? How many have been vaccinated once? Twice? What vaccines are you using? Is there any vaccine hesitancy? By which groups (political, ethnic)? Are there populations underserved? Who is doing the vaccinations? Hospitals, health departments, pharmacies, personal physicians?

According to the Covid-19 Vaccine Rollout Plan (available as a PDF from the Unite Against Covid-19 website), New Zealanders are divided into four groups, and the timing of our eligibility for the vaccine depends on which group we’re in:

Group One is roughly 50,000 people and includes “Border and MIQ (Managed Isolation and Quarantine) employers and employees and the people they live with”. It “includes cleaners, nurses who undertake health checks in MIQ, security staff, customs and border officials, hotel workers, defence and police staff who are eligible to be rotated into MIQ, airline staff, port authorities and vaccinators. ” This group is pretty much completed.

Group Two is roughly 480,000 people and includes “High-risk frontline healthcare workforces who are most likely to contract and/or spread COVID-19 through their interaction with patients; Any person who usually lives in long-term residential care where residents are at risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19; All people working in long-term residential environments where people are at risk of getting very sick or dying from COVID-19; Older Māori and Pacific people cared for by whānau (and the people they live with and their carers); Any person who is aged 65+ or has a relevant underlying health condition or disability living in the Counties Manukau DHB area.” This group is being done right now. And it will take until about May.

A “relevant underlying health condition” means “coronary heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease/chronic respiratory conditions, kidney disease and cancer.” Pregnant women are also included in that category. The he Counties Manukau DHB area is in South Auckland, which has the highest concentration of at-risk populations because of poverty and the poor health outcomes that results in. Until I sold our house, I lived in the Counties Manukau DHB area. The Unite Against Covid-19 Facebook page announced today that vaccinations for Group 2 have begun, and also, “If you haven't been contacted yet, don't worry you have not missed out. We are working with DHBs and health providers to confirm how vaccine appointments will work for your group. You don’t need to do anything just yet. We’ll update our website here” (Link in the original).

Group three is roughly 1.7 million people and includes “People in New Zealand aged 65+, people with relevant underlying health conditions, and disabled people; Adults in custodial settings.” This group is expected to begin receiving vaccines in May. I’m in this group because of my coronary disease and hypertension. “Custodial settings” mainly means jails and prisons, because “International evidence has shown that COVID-19 can spread quickly among people in custody.”

Group four is roughly 2 million people and includes “Our general population aged 16 and over.” This is expected to begin in July and continue through to the end of the year (or thereabouts).

According to a Unite Against Covid-19 Facebook Post yesterday, “More than 40,000 people in New Zealand have had their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.” They don’t specify the number that have had both jabs, but there are a significant portion who have had both.

New Zealand is using the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine exclusively, partly because it’s the only one currently approved for use in New Zealand by our regulatory body, Medsafe. Also, they believe having one vaccine will simplify logistics, and because it’s still the most effective vaccine overall. They’re watching the research to see if it will be offered to those under 16, but at the moment, it won’t be.

I can’t comment on who will be administering the vaccine to the general population because I simply don’t know: No details have been released yet. The programme began using people from the Ministry of Health and local Public Health units, and I’d guess that will continue in the nationwide rollout, with vaccination centres established. Because the Pfizer vaccine has to be kept at -70C, it’s highly improbable that it will be administered by doctors, however, the Ministry of Health is watching the research to see if the vaccine remains usable if stored at “warmer” temperatures (like -25C), and if it is, then at least some pharmacies may be able to administer it.

The underserved groups are mainly in Group 2, however, there are underserved groups in rural areas, too, and the Ministry plans special efforts (so far unannounced) to get to them (maybe in Group 3?). It’s worth remembering, though, that all the outbreaks so far have been in the cities, so rural people aren’t at particularly high risk of infection.

There’s indeed been a tiny minority loudly resisting the idea of vaccinations because they believe the same utterly loony stuff as their American cousins do (like that it’s part of a plot to implant tracking devices, etc, etc., after loony etc.). A bigger problem is that because the government has been slow to release information about the vaccination programme, it created space for grifters, crackpots, and extremists to spread misinformation and disinformation. The number who are truly anti-vaccine is very, very small, and those who say they’re unsure will likely come around when there’s more public information, including the inevitable ad campaign.

I don’t really know anything about what Australia is doing.

That’s pretty much all we know about the vaccination programme at the moment. What I do know is that, like everyone else, I’ll get my getting the vaccine when my turn comes round, and I’ll talk about it, too.

I’m just glad it’s finally underway here.


Roger Owen Green said...

My daughter sent me this link: Vaccine passports are being compared to yellow Stars of David
Political activists are comparing the idea of “vaccine passports” to Nazi Germany, with many invoking the yellow Stars of David that Nazis forced Jews to wear during the Holocaust.


Arthur Schenck said...

FFS, what is wrong with people?! It's an absolute certainty that verifiable vaccine passports will be a requirement for international travel, no exceptions. If it makes sense for that—and it does—then there are plenty of other businesses for whom verifiable vaccine passports will make sound business sense to require passports, too. They're going to have to quit their childish whining and deal with it. IMHO. I suppose they could always got that Congressloon's bar in Colorado because you know that place will welcome the plague.