Members of the public who are not on the priority list for Covid vaccinations have been getting jabs ahead of time to avoid supplies being wasted, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins has confirmed.
His response follows last-minute appeals to medical staff to get vaccinations before doses expire and anecdotal reports that "walk-ins" were being accepted at some clinics for the same reason.
Officially the vaccine is not available to the general public until July. The current rollout is confined to priority groups, such as border, MIQ and high-risk frontline workers and their households.
However, Hipkins confirmed that "in a minority of cases" exceptions were being made.
"What we have said to those on the frontline doing vaccination is don't let any vaccinations go to waste," he told Newstalk ZB's Heather Du Plessis-Allan yesterday.
"So if you think you are going to have vaccines that would expire rather than giving them to people, then give them to people."
There would be some instances where, for logistical reasons, vaccinators would decide to go ahead, such as small communities where it made more sense to do a lot of people at once.
Du Plessis-Allan's questions came after Newstalk ZB reporter Courtney Winter went to an Ōtara vaccination centre and was able to join the queue for a jab.
"A security guard came up to me and asked if I had a booking. I said no, he said 'That's cool', walked away, then came back and gave me a consent form and I just waited in line," Winter said.
"No one ever asked me if I met the current requirements to be eligible for the vaccine," she said.
After Winter's report, a South Auckland man contacted Newstalk ZB to say he queued up and received a vaccination in less than two hours on Tuesday. Although he qualified because he was over 65, he was not asked to provide any identification.
RNZ reported yesterday that Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) staff had made personal Facebook posts to advise people there were spare Covid-19 vaccines up for grabs.
The DHB received an excess 1400 Covid-19 vaccine doses last week which would have expired yesterday.
A similar incident happened in Auckland last month when medical staff were asked to turn up at the last minute to avoid supplies going to waste, but some missed out.
The news came as the Government shared its DHB vaccination targets and progress numbers yesterday, following multiple requests from the Herald and other media.
By June 30, the Ministry of Health expects at least 1,161,952 New Zealanders should have received their first jab.
It also emerged that up to 60 MIQ workers aren't being regularly tested, although Hipkins said the risk of the virus leaking from MIQ into the community was "very low".
Surveillance testing of MIQ workers is in the spotlight following reports that a Grand Millennium security guard, known as Case B, wasn't tested for six months, even though he was meant to be tested fortnightly.
- Additional reporting Emma Russell, Derek Cheng