Covid 19 coronavirus: Not so ready to roll? From near-zero supply to 500k doses in reserve


We haven’t got the GPs and pharmacists on board yet.

That’s the reason Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins gave for why we can’t start rolling out 50,000 doses a day.

We were pretty much running on empty up until this week’s Pfizer shipment, and the Government’s very reasonable excuse for the pace of the rollout has been a lack of abundant supply.

We even needed to ask DHBs, which were and are still tracking ahead of schedule, to slow down so existing bookings didn’t need to be cancelled.

But supply is no longer an issue. This week saw 350,000-odd doses arrive – enough for 50,000 doses a day – and 1.5 million doses are expected over August.

We need to deliver about 50,000 doses a day to vaccinate four million people by December (DHB rollout plans only go up to December 5). That number will jump if 12 to 15-year-olds are included, as is expected, in the eligible population.

The Government has spent months readying itself for the day when supply is abundant and dosage can go wild – but we’re not there yet, and won’t be for weeks.

It’s not because of a lack of staff or venues, Hipkins said, because GPs and pharmacies already have those. They just need to be brought “on board”.

“Bringing more of them on board is a process that is really accelerating now,” he said yesterday.

No one is pretending that planning with a postcode-lottery DHB system is easy. Add in the uncertainties of supply, demand, and who will book and then actually show up.

But it’s hardly a model of efficiency to finally have the supply issue sorted but then be hamstrung by delivery capacity.

It’s not the fault of GPs or pharmacists either, who have been crying out for monthsto be involved.

Their frustrations remain, with many refusing bookings because of a lack of certainty about their role.

In the Auckland region, only 41 practices are vaccinating, while another 78 are going through the onboarding process.

Similar questions about Government preparation – or lack thereof – hang over pre-departure tests for arrivals from Australia, half of whom walk through the airport unchecked.

Efficiency of the arrival process was an issue, but when asked if passenger delays were a small price to pay for safety, Hipkins said it was mainly a lack of staffing – which surely could have been anticipated, even with the uncertainties of which bubble might pause.

More staff were being hired, Hipkins said, and the vaccination system should have capacity for 50,000 doses a day by the end of August, six weeks away.

DHBs are currently 75,000 doses ahead of schedule. By August 29, they plan to have administered just over three million doses, which might be closer to 3.1m at the current rate, while about 3.6m are expected to have been shipped here in total.

After saying for weeks that he wanted jabs in people’s arms rather than sitting in the freezer, Hipkins may find the freezers loaded with up to 500,000 doses by then.

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