Slow vaccine rollout a recipe for disaster

If there was ever a case to be made for a faster rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine, a quick look across the ditch at the situation Australia finds itself in should be more than sufficient. 

New Zealand is relying on the strength of the border preventing the virus from entering the country, but so was Australia.  

Just one case of the Delta variant could spell disaster for New Zealand. We are sitting ducks right now, more vulnerable to the reemergence of Covid-19 than most of the world. 

So when are we going to acknowledge that the vaccine rollout is, in fact, not going to plan?  

Members of the media have been asking this for months now, something that is very upsetting for hardline supporters of the Government. Those journalists are inevitably met with obfuscation and ambiguous explanations from Ardern, Hipkins, and Bloomfield. “I’m going to push back on that,” or “I’m going to refute that,” in response to basic facts are heard all too commonly now in relation to the rollout.  

It must be very difficult to hold a government to account when it still won’t, at the very least, admit that New Zealand actually wasn’t at the front of the queue like it promised late last year. 

Delivery is not one of this Government’s strengths. Why the Prime Minister declared 2021 the “year of the vaccine” – given the failure of the “year of delivery” in 2019 – is beyond me. 

For a government that is fairly vague and wafty at the best of times, Ardern and Hipkins sure seem set on making aspirational promises about the vaccine rollout that are almost doomed to fail. 

Lectures from the podium of truth each week assure us that all is going to plan, conveniently ignoring the ever-shifting targets – which are so low they’re a tripping hazard – and graphs that don’t make sense. 

Despite the Prime Minister telling us in February when the first batch arrived that she expected border workers would be vaccinated within two to three weeks, nearly 1800 were still unvaccinated by mid-July. 

And while the plan was for all frontline health workers to be vaccinated by June, about a third have not yet had their second dose. 

Meanwhile, the rollout in the Canterbury region has been a disaster, with only 2% of group 3 vaccinated. 

Across the country, a significant number of people who should have been contacted have not been, including elderly people well into their 80s and 90s, and many others who are vulnerable due to pre-existing conditions. 

We are dead last in the OECD for vaccination rates. The numbers don’t lie, even with Ardern’s protestations of “no no.” 

The Government would do well not to write off the critics anymore. With only five months left of 2021 and most in group 4 not even able to access the vaccine until October, the rollout is looking shaky at best – if we want to put it kindly. The public can see this for themselves. 

If New Zealand is plunged into a level 3 or 4 lockdown like certain states in Australia right now, I’m not sure the team of five million would be as compliant as they were in March of last year. 

Certainly, not everyone is Sydney and Melbourne have been, with thousands protesting the restricted measures last week in the streets – the most effective way of spreading the virus further. 

Even Scott Morrison is apologising for the speed of Australia’s vaccine rollout, which is faster than ours! 

The more Ardern and Hipkins persist in telling us the rollout is on track while large swaths of the population experience the total opposite, the less patience the team of five million will have with Labour and its lack of urgency. 

And if the rollout is going as the Government had planned all along, then heads need to roll based on results to date.

Either way, Labour is living up to expectations of being unable to deliver. 

Monique Poirier has a Masters degree in Political Studies, and is a former small business owner and Parliamentary staffer. She is the Campaigns Manager for the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance.

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