Black Caps win vaccine access in NZ

·2-min read

New Zealand will allow early access to the COVID-19 vaccine for athletes needing to travel overseas to compete but not to Kiwis leaving to attend funerals.

To date, 41,500 doses have been administered, with a focus on vaccinating workers within NZ's border regime - those most at risk of infection.

COVID-19 Minister Chris Hipkins said 95 per cent of border workers had received at least their first dose of the Pfizer vaccination, which requires two doses to be effective.

On Wednesday, the government said Kiwis can jump the vaccination queue if they are heading abroad on compassionate or "national significance" grounds.

Eligible compassionate grounds include Kiwis travelling to provide critical care for a dependant, visit a dying loved one or access medical care unavailable at home.

"There is something about those precious final moments that make people's desire to see those family members before they pass away very, very understandable," Mr Hipkins said.

It does not extend to family reunifications or funerals.

"We have to draw the line somewhere," he said.

"If we were extend that out further to funerals and so on, it's potentially a significantly larger group."

The government has also decided to allow its world-title chasing cricketers, Olympians and Paralympians to be vaccinated before they head abroad this year to compete on New Zealand's behalf.

This question drew great controversy earlier this month when AAP revealed NZ's Director General of Health was given special access and was lobbied directly by NZ Cricket during the Australia-New Zealand T20 series.

The "national significance" eligibility will allow organisations at "significant international" events to be vaccinated.

Mr Hipkins said that meant "those sports that everybody is hanging out to watch on television" but not school sporting competitions.

"We're talking about a few hundred potential athletes ... it's not a large group," he said.

The eligibility changes also mean Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta and other politicians are eligible for jabs to travel overseas.

"This has occupied a lot of our thinking," Mr Hipkins said.

"We don't want our political leaders to be seen to be jumping the queue. On the other hand we are getting questions from people along the lines of 'well if this is a very safe thing and you're backing it, why are you not doing it yourself?'

"We will make some decisions fairly shortly about that."