Covid 19 coronavirus vaccine rollout: Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield faces grilling from MPs


Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield is fronting MPs this morning as the Government continues to defend its vaccination roll-out.

Head of MIQ Brigadier Jim Bliss and Carolyn Tremain, chief executive of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, are also appearing before Parliament’s health select committee at 9am.

It comes hours before the weekly vaccination update from Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins, who is expected to release new data about which border workers have and have not been vaccinated.

Bloomfield has remained adamant that the vaccine roll-out is more or less on track. At the last update – a week ago – almost 20,000 people had received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, while 71,000 had had one jab.

But the Government has been increasingly on the back foot over its reluctance to release data including daily vaccination doses and targets, and the proportion of frontline border workers who are still to be vaccinated.

In the past week, two security guards at the Grand Millennium MIQ facility caught Covid-19 and weren’t vaccinated – even though they are supposed to be at the front of the queue.

This morning the Herald revealed the Ministry of Health is urgently seeking 18 “crucial” positions for the roll-out, which the National Party says “beggars belief”.

“Why wasn’t the Government organised enough to recruit these urgent and high priority roles well in advance of now? It is a deeply concerning sign that the vaccine programme is in trouble,” said the party’s Covid-19 response spokesman Chris Bishop.

And this morning the head of Counties Manukau DHB said Auckland only has half the number of Covid-19 vaccinators it needs for the roll-out.

The Ministry of Health says it needs to scale up its workforce in line with the roll-out, which is currently prioritising border workers, high-risk frontline workers
and people living in high-risk places.

The Ministry of Health has just started releasing the number of vaccine doses compared to the roll-put plan – but only up until the previous week and not looking into the future.

On Monday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern revealed the number of MIQ workers who have had at least one vaccine jab – 86 per cent – but only after the Government revealed that two infected Grand Millennium security guards hadn’t been vaccinated despite them wanting to be.

The Government has also faced criticism for not making its central register of border workers compulsory – which it now intends to do – meaning it did not include the testing history of some MIQ workers from private companies.

Yesterday there were no new community cases, and four border cases including one from India. The Government has temporarily suspended arrivals from India as it looks for ways to lower the risk of importing cases from there.

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