Surging demand for vaccines amid New Zealand’s latest COVID-19 outbreak means jabs may need to be held back for Kiwis in coming weeks.
The slow-starting vaccine rollout has caused major political disagreement, with opposition parties accusing Jacinda Ardern’s government of bungling the program.
Prior to the outbreak, New Zealand’s rollout was just starting to gather pace, as planned.
The return of COVID-19 into the community has seen daily vaccinations jump from roughly 40,000-50,000 each day, to a peak of 90,000 on Friday.
Almost 14 per cent of New Zealanders have been vaccinated in the last 11 days, which Ms Ardern said bettered the maximum per-capita rates of other countries, including Australia.
“On our tally, our rolling daily average, we have now gone beyond the peak for Canada, Australia, the UK and the United States,” Ms Ardern said.
“We are making records currently in New Zealand.”
However, the upswing in vaccinations has presented a problem with supply. Health ministry records show around 400,000 doses were sitting at central warehouses – enough for just under a week’s supply at current rates.
Ms Ardern insists New Zealand will not run out of Pfizer vaccine, the company it is solely relying on to vaccinate every consenting adult Kiwi before the end of the year.
However, she also admitted a new strategy was needed in light of the unexpected resurgence of the virus and the exponential growth in demand.
“It’s a very dynamic situation,” Ms Ardern said. “It’s not a matter of running out, it’s a matter of whether or not we are in a position where we need to have a little less demand.”
Opposition COVID-19 spokesman Chris Bishop called that comment “unbelievable”.
“New Zealand’s vaccine roll-out has been the slowest in the developed world,” Mr Bishop said.
“Now it is starting to ramp up, there is a real risk we will run out of vaccines and the Prime Minister says demand needs to lessen.
“This is incompetence on a grand scale.”
Ms Ardern says the government’s new strategy, aimed at maintaining current vaccination rates, will be released next week.