“The Government is shutting out a standing army of vaccinators like pharmacists and General Practitioners (GPs) in a flawed model that will ensure the continued slowness of our COVID vaccination rollout,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“This may be because it has tied its own hands by not commissioning a national booking system for COVID vaccinations until last October – a system that won’t be functioning until ‘sometime in May.’

“All the same, we have vaccination infrastructure in place to vaccinate around 1.4 million New Zealanders a year just for the flu, but instead of utilising it the Government has decided to stand up the vaccination programme from scratch, with each District Health Board (DHB) developing its own plan.

“Despite previously saying primary healthcare providers would be used in the vaccination rollout, and asking them for expressions of interest, I’m getting reports that few if any of those who have so far expressed an interest are being added to the vaccinator network.

“Pharmacists and GPs well-versed in running nationwide vaccination programmes are scratching their heads as to why they’re being left on the side-lines.

“This isn’t how they’re vaccinating in the United Kingdom, where they’re successfully combining National Health Service resources with primary healthcare providers like GPs and pharmacies.

“And it’s not how they’re vaccinating in Australia, where almost half the 1.2 million doses of vaccine administered to date have been delivered through the country’s GP network.

“It’s crazy that almost no primary health care providers are being used in our rollout despite having the staff and infrastructure ready to go.

“Meanwhile, concerns about how to run our rollout without wastage of the precious Pfizer vaccine should be alleviated with new advice that the vaccine is more stable at higher temperatures than previously thought.

“Rather than needing to be stored and transported at extremely low temperatures the vaccine can actually be shipped to vaccination clinics and stored there at temperatures commonly found in standard pharmaceutical freezers for up to two weeks.

“Unopened vials can even be stored in domestic fridges for up to five days.

“Logically this should open the door to greater use of the primary healthcare vaccinator network, significantly increasing the pace of the rollout here.”