New Zealand's vaccine stocks dwindling

·2-min read

New Zealand's crunch point for COVID-19 vaccine will arrive next Tuesday, when it may run out of supply.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she cannot guarantee her country will have vaccine beyond that point if Pfizer doesn't stick to its agreed delivery schedules.

"We've planned based on what we're due to receive from Pfizer. If we receive what we anticipate when we anticipate it, then we've got a plan," she said.

"If there's any slip in the timeline of those deliveries, they will be an effect ... things will be very tight."

The nightmare scenario for New Zealand has been long in the build-up.

New Zealand, which has been largely successful in keeping the virus out through a border regime, has scheduled mass vaccination for the last six months of the year.

Ms Ardern's government has delayed delivery as it builds capacity in its embattled health system for the mammoth undertaking.

It has signed deals with Pfizer to vaccinate every consenting Kiwi this year - a pledge it is holding firm to.

As of last week, it has administered 1.019 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, with 13 per cent of Kiwis receiving at least one shot.

That lowly percentage ranks New Zealand 122nd in the world for administering vaccine.

Only certain parts of the population, including border and health workers, and at-risk groups are currently eligible to be vaccinated.

Still, stock levels are precarious, with fewer than 30,000 doses on hand until this week's shipment is processed.

COVID-19 Minister Chris Hipkins admitted his anxiety as next Tuesday neared.

"We will pretty much get down to almost zero," he said.

"We have very carefully calibrated this. If the deliveries are late, that might create a bit of a headache.

"We have made that decision deliberately ... we didn't want to have vaccines sitting in the freezer as a contingency. We'd rather get them out and into people.

"It does mean we're cutting it very fine."

"There's no question that is going to be keeping me awake for the next seven days," he said.

Larger shipments are expected from Pfizer later in July.

Opposition COVID-19 spokesman Chirs Bishop said New Zealand was too slow to sign vaccine contracts.

"We were one of the slowest in the OECD ... now we find we are one of the slowest in the world to roll out the vaccine as well," he said.

"The government needs to be putting heavy pressure on Pfizer to come to the party."

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