Michael Morrah reports:
Health officials have quietly made changes to COVID-19 vaccine availability for port workers amid the Delta variant scare in Tauranga.
Until now, only workers interacting with ships and crew were entitled to a vaccine – just a fraction of the workforce at the ports.
Charles Finny, who is the independent chair of the Port Company CEO Group, says they’ve been trying to change the rules to allow all workers to get the jab.
“We’ve been arguing for that for months,” he says.
But suddenly, amid the Tauranga COVID-19 scare, a change was made after port CEOs met with Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield on Tuesday.
“We were told yesterday and Dr Bloomfield agreed with us that that didn’t make much sense,” Finny says.
“There was definitely frustration and we’re very pleased that we have got the rules changed.”
The Government’s messaging so far, even from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Wednesday, had been that vaccines were always available for port workers.
“They have been able to access a vaccine since the very beginning of our rollout. We prioritised port workers,” she said.
But National’s Chris Bishop, who is the party’s COVID-19 response spokesperson, says he’s “staggered” by the Prime Minister’s statement because it isn’t the case.
Only 10% of POT workers have been vaccinated and we were told it was due to vaccine hesitancy and misinformation, But it turns out the truth is the Government was refusing to give them priority access to the vaccine.