Wellington Scoop

Mixed messages

by Lindsay Shelton
There were conflicting messages about covid vaccinations in the texts that thousands of Wellingtonians received last week.

Capital and Coast District Health Board announced last Thursday that “an invitation to book” a vaccination would be sent to everyone in Group 3 by the end of this month.

But that’s not they were saying when my text message arrived. They had changed the message. It said only that I would be “contacted soon” with an invitation to book a vaccination. But when? “Vaccinations will take place over several months.”

And no questions were allowed. “Please do not contact your Medical Centre or respond to this message.”

Looking back through my files, I see I was first told that Group 3 vaccinations would begin at the end of May. This date was then put back several times, till now the best they can tell us is that there will be “vaccinations … over several months.”

Janet Wilson wrote about this in the DomPost.

The vaccine roll-out is the second stage of a Defensive/Offensive play that Labour needs to execute efficiently and well. At the moment, it’s doing neither, lost in a miasma of half-truths. Here’s another tool the Government could try: tell an incontrovertible truth, that there’s a shortage of Covid-19 vaccines around the world and exhort Kiwis – our great Team of Five Million – to sign up for vaccinations when they do arrive. Fact-based messaging, based on the science, worked last time round when the Government executed its Defensive play and shut our borders, didn’t it?

She added:

Other parts of the world are opening up, while we languish. The United States and parts of Europe went early and hard on their vaccine roll-out, fast-tracking approval and spending billions to secure doses. The US has more than 50 per cent of its adult population vaccinated, France has nearly 45 per cent and the UK more than 60 per cent. … What we’ve got is more delays, more uncertainty. What’s needed now, more than ever, are honest conversations, based on fact, not what’s increasingly looking like opaque butt-covering.

RNZ reported that Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins warned that vaccine stocks would be at “almost zero” by Tuesday, when the country was due to receive its next shipment which was expected to be only 150,000 doses.

The DomPost reported more about the shortfall:

“There’s low stock of vaccines, so we are having to carefully manage that and administer to the most vulnerable,” said Dr Jeff Lowe,​​ a GP at Karori Medical Centre and the chair of General Practice New Zealand. “We have had to pause our vaccine centre in Karori because the numbers [of vials] are so low. We have redistributed what we have left to other primary health organisations and have had to rebook our patients once we have confidence in supply.” The centre is one of the biggest in Wellington, with 1500 enrolled patients. It was vaccinating its own registered patients who were eligible, as well as those invited to be vaccinated if it was closest to where they live or work. Rachel Haggerty,​ the director of strategy, planning and performance at Capital & Coast and Hutt Valley District Health Boards, said vaccination at Karori Medical Centre was paused to ensure it did not move ahead of the rest of the region. …

And more from Chris Hipkins:

“We are going to be living for a couple of weeks a pretty hand-to-mouth existence when it comes to vaccines arriving and us pushing them out as quickly as we can … We have made the decision to run our vaccine stocks down to nothing so that we can keep the vaccine campaign going but it does create quite a lot of pressure on the people who are doing it and some risk if there is a delay in any of the shipments arriving.”

Which left all of us in Group 3 wondering: this month? Next month? When will we be vaccinated?

And where?

CCDHB has provided detailed information about vaccination centres at the Waiwhetu Fitness Centre, the Wainuiomata Marae, the Maraeroa Marae and the Ora Toa Takapūwāhia Medical Centre in Porirua, the Walter Nash stadium in Taita, the Lower Hutt Community Vaccination Centre on High Street, a Pacific Islanders’ church in Newtown … as well as Karori which has now been put on hold. But there’s been only passing reference to what seems to be Wellington’s major vaccination centre, in the Capital Gateway Centre; it has been mentioned only once – when the Governor-General was vaccinated there last month.

If the government has been less than specific, a wellington.scoop reader has provided more certainty about substantial vaccine orders:

We are waiting for the “millions of doses” we ordered in March to arrive when they said they would (“expected to arrive in New Zealand during the second half of the year”). We ordered 1.5 million doses of Pfizer in October 2020, with delivery from the 1st quarter 2021, that’s what we are using now. (We’ve had 1.27 million delivered so far, with 230K still to come this month). We only went all in on Pfizer in March 2021, with the order for 8.5 million doses to be delivered from July 2021 (i.e this month). Pfizer has not delayed or diverted any stock, they have delivered exactly as was contracted.

And this morning the government announced that the 150,000 doses due to arrive tomorrow had turned up yesterday. This morning’s report quotes Hipkins as saying that a million doses would be arriving this month which meant, he said, that the vaccination programme could start being ramped up.

Let’s hope that the bigger consignments will mean that vagueness about vaccination schedules can be replaced by something specific.

New booking system, but not till the end of the month
Fed up with waiting, some people seeking jabs away from home
NYTimes: the need for mass vaccinations


  1. D'Esterre, 5. July 2021, 11:23

    Why would it matter if the Karori medical centre did move ahead? What was the point of grouping citizens in order of priority, when the DHBs have failed to vaccinate most of the high-risk group? The government has over-promised and under-delivered on the vaccination programme.

    I’d have preferred more honesty about the logistical difficulties, along with concomitant honesty about which people in group 3 would be vaccinated first. At least we’d have known where we stand.

  2. Wendy, 5. July 2021, 11:37

    The recent scare in Wellington has shown up a real concern. The inner-city (Lambton/Te Aro) residents now make up the biggest suburb in terms of population in Wellington. They are at higher risk than most other suburbs because many of them live in high-rise buildings (vertical streets) where their only form of egress in and out of their homes is via a commonly shared lift. Many of these residents are retired and elderly and one infected person using a lift could see an entire community living in close quarters brought down with the virus. And, as the central city is also a destination for tourists this adds to the risk, especially now the Trans-Tasman bubble is in place.

    Yet, it has been virtually impossible for any elderly inner-city resident to get vaccinated, even some with compromised health. But there are those who have been able to get vaccinated by going outside of the city, which makes the inability to get the vaccine in the city even more questionable. It begs the question as to whether the CCDHB, who distribute the vaccine, have even recognised the huge population living in the inner- city, or the added concerns associated with this.

  3. greenwelly, 5. July 2021, 13:35

    Wendy, until the week of 21st July vaccination is still going to be a painfully slow drip feed (there simply isn’t enough supply to go hard on the +65 population). But the last week of July will feel like Christmas… the challenge will be getting enough people through the door, jabbing them and supervising them for 20 minutes before they leave… (The daily supply will be 50K+ doses).

  4. Helene Ritchie, 5. July 2021, 16:04

    I am informed that by the end of July it is everyone over 60, (not 65), then a fortnight after that all in Group 4 … that seems a long shot from where I am sitting at present … which is in the Manners Street library, much smaller than the old Johnsonville library. Yes on many counts Wendy ‘they’ seem to have forgotten about inner city residents.

  5. Lindsay, 5. July 2021, 16:24

    “Overall in July we’re expecting to receive a million doses.” – Prime Minister Jacinda Adern at her 4pm news conference. And also: “I am confident we can deliver our commitment to vaccinate every New Zealander by the end of the year.”

  6. TrevorH, 5. July 2021, 17:00

    It all seems quite random. The Central City and the Eastern Suburbs seem to be missing out while the Hutt seems very well looked after. This is reminiscent of the flu vaccine last year and the measles vaccine before that. Why not give the job to the Armed Services and spare us the continual propaganda please.

  7. Ray Chung, 6. July 2021, 14:25

    To all of you who believe that you’re going to be vaccinated this month, I dearly hope you’re right but I doubt it! The Onslow Medical Centre has advised me that they won’t receive any vaccine before 21st August and even then the DHB hasn’t designated them as an authorised centre for vaccinations. I believe that Hipkins and Ardern know exactly when vaccine shipments will arrive and how long it’ll take to distribute these to vaccination centres so why won’t they tell us?
    Wendy, you talk about the apartment buildings in the CBD where many people are living in close proximity to each other – this is what Rebecca Matthews, Jennie Condie and Green councillors amongst others are advocating.

  8. Wendy, 7. July 2021, 9:20

    Ray, I got the same message regarding the vaccine distribution from my inner-city medical centre. Let’s hope no more outbreaks in the inner-city.

  9. Ray Chung, 7. July 2021, 11:11

    Hi Wendy, yes, it’s scary how quickly the slightest error by someone can spread so swiftly. When I look at what’s happening in Fiji and yet the government there still steadfastly refuses to have a lockdown … and the UK lifting all restrictions while Covid is still spreading is very concerning! Be careful in the city!

  10. Henry Cooke, 7. July 2021, 14:20

    NZ vax update:
    – 501k people fully vaccinated (12% of 16+ pop)
    – 769k first doses (18.3%)
    – Compares to 9.4% fully vaccinated and 31.5% first dose in Aust.
    And here it is per priority group – group sizes approximate:
    – Group 1: 103% full, 112% first dose
    – Group 2: 63% full, 88% first dose
    – Group 3: 7% full, 13% first dose
    – Group 4: 1.3% full, 3% first dose
    [via twitter]

  11. Brian J, 7. July 2021, 16:02

    Sent a letter to Chris Hipkins on 6 July. The automatic reply from the Minister’s Office follows. That the Minister’s Office makes no attempt to answer specific questions is the antithesis of ‘transparency’.

    Dear Minister. I am writing to you in connection with the Covid-19 vaccination rollout.
    Do you accept that as of July 2021 a very large cohort of the NZ population, especially those in Group 3, is deeply concerned, anxious and angry about the likelihood of catching Covid-19 in the event of an outbreak? And that such public concern is the result of the slow speed of the vaccination rollout? Why, in July, is NZ near the bottom of the list of developed countries in terms of the percentage of its total population that are fully Covid-19 vaccinated?
    What specific measures did the NZ Government take in the period 1 January 2021 to 30 June to:
    a) increase the volume of vaccines on order from overseas?
    b) accelerate delivery of vaccines into NZ?
    Starting at 1 July 2021, by what date is it planned that 70% of the NZ population will have received both Covid vaccinations, and is that detailed plan available to the public? Why did the Prime Minister use “vaccine hesitancy” as the message associated with the media event of her being vaccinated? What actual evidence is there of widespread vaccine hesitancy in NZ? What mistakes and errors does the Government admit and acknowledge having made over the period 1 January to 30 June in connection with the Covid vaccination roll out to result in NZ being near the bottom of the table of vaccination progress?
    I look forward to your reply
    Brian Jameson

    Automatic Reply received from Minister’s Office on 6 July
    Thank you for taking the time to write to Hon Chris Hipkins, Minister for COVID-19 Response, Minister of Education, Minister for the Public Sector and Leader of the House. We are receiving a significant amount of correspondence at the moment and, although your email will be carefully considered and noted, it is not possible to respond to each individual email. For the latest updates on COVID-19, we encourage you to regularly check the dedicated COVID-19 and Ministry of Health websites regularly. They will be updated as soon as new information is available. If your query is in regards to the COVID-19 vaccine, there are substantive resources about our COVID-19 vaccine planning and our COVID-19 vaccine strategy on the dedicated COVID-19 website here: https://covid19.govt.nz/health-and-wellbeing/covid-19-vaccines/ or the Ministry of Health website here: https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus/covid-19-vaccines/covid-19-getting-vaccine. Please remember to take care, and be kind. We have beaten COVID-19 before, and we can do it again.
    Office of Hon Chris Hipkins

  12. Katie, 8. July 2021, 13:59

    Politicians are hardwired to spin, they just can’t help themselves. That’s why I was so impressed at the lack of spin we got around lockdown. Just the facts, the reasons, the science, it wasn’t politicised and I’m still convinced it was that being upfront about it that got the 5M on board more than anything else.

    It could never last of course, and spin is now the order of the day. I’m in Group 3 and also now very concerned because there is no way of establishing (or believing) what’s true and what isn’t when it comes to the roll-out. Let them spin away to their hearts content about anything NOT related to Covid, but facts only, and straight replies to straight answers when questioned, no matter how uncomfortable. It also has the added bonus that it gives the Opposition no means to attack them for lying.

  13. Peter B, 11. July 2021, 17:17

    In NZ democracy there is no will to address the concern of citizens and as a result Ministers do not reply to all written concerns drawn to their attention be it COVID or otherwise. You only have to look at the laws that remain unaltered that the New Zealand Law Commission has deemed not fit for purpose.
    i.e., Property Relationship Act.

  14. TrevorH, 11. July 2021, 19:13

    At the golf club last Thursday the local loudmouth (pakeha) boasted he had already received his two COVID vaccinations. When questioned how he achieved that distinction, he replied his wife had had a Maori grandparent so he was treated as whanau. Perhaps the rollout is not as chaotic as it appears.

  15. Ray Chung, 11. July 2021, 20:25

    Hey TrevorH, that’s interesting thanks! My Auntie is Maori so does that qualify me for getting the first jab?

  16. TrevorH, 12. July 2021, 7:27

    Ray: it’s worth a try. Head over to Wainuiomata or up the coast and confirm your tribal affiliations.

  17. Ray Chung, 12. July 2021, 20:22

    Hey TrevorH, if I did that, I’d never be able to criticise anyone who uses their race to get an advantage over everyone else!

  18. Dave B, 13. July 2021, 14:19

    Brian J, in the absence of a considered and factual reply from Minister Hipkins, I will write one on his behalf. I am sure this is what he would say:-

    Dear Mr Brian J.
    Regarding the Covid vaccine rollout, everything is fine and on track. You have no need to worry. We have got Covid-19 under control. Trust me.

    Signed, Dave B
    speaking for The Hon Chris Hipkins
    (Minister of whatever he is, and regretfully unable to reply personally).

  19. D'Esterre, 13. July 2021, 22:00

    Katie, from the beginning of the lockdown last year, this pandemic was politicised up the wazoo. The PM made a piece of political drama out of it: daily press conferences, the announcements interpolated into TV programming, the mobile phone alerts, as if there’d been an earthquake, with a tsunami on the way. Or the outbreak of war. It irritated me so intensely that I refused to watch any of it. A press release would have sufficed.