Public acceptance and uptake of the Covid-19 vaccine is the most effective tool we have to enable businesses to keep their doors open.
Lockdowns, the tracer app, mask wearing and physical distancing have played an important role in slowing and tracking the virus, but vaccination has been the missing piece of the puzzle.
The contagiousness of the Delta variant poses huge challenges for business, but it should also be a game-changer for the vaccine hesitant. Uncertainty for business owners and employers is widespread and level 4 lockdown costs New Zealand $1.5 billion each week.
Right now, by some estimates, just 15 per cent of New Zealand's consumer businesses can operate at alert level 4. Getting to 90 per cent vaccine coverage by the end of the year would likely allow all businesses to open indefinitely.
It will also allow us to open the border and let tourism businesses thrive. Nobody wants to live with permanent restrictions, especially not business owners who have borne the brunt of lockdowns for the past 18 months.
It is disappointing that new Ministry of Health data has found almost a quarter of the population is "unsure" or "definitely not getting vaccinated".
Getting vaccinated not only protects you, but also drastically reduces the spread to friends, family and co-workers. The vaccine does not provide 100 per cent protection, but it is the best option.
Clinical trials for the Pfizer vaccine shows it is 95.3 per cent effective against the severe side effects of Covid-19. Covid vaccines must undergo stringent testing in clinical trials to prove their safety and effectiveness.
So far the response to Covid-19 has appropriately prioritised health and financial sustainability.
This time last year, economists were predicting the economic toll of the pandemic to lie between the recessions of the 1980s, and the Great Depression. Unemployment was tipped to hit double figures for the first time in 30-odd years.
But we are not out of the woods yet.
So far, we have all played our part to drive New Zealand out of recession and keep Kiwis in jobs.
New Zealanders have been quick to show their support for local businesses when lockdowns are announced but, with the recent shift to level 4, many small businesses are on the edge.
They are facing a perfect storm of lockdown, labour shortages and a sharp spike in transport and energy costs.
In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, Rutherford Labs tracked New Zealanders' buying intentions, finding that local had become the second most important motivation for consumers after price. This year, Colmar Brunton found 64 per cent of Kiwis buy locally produced and grown products over imported ones.
But all this means little if we refuse to support business through vaccination.
With Delta in the community and the country locked down, it is time to step up and prove our commitment to local businesses by getting jabbed - opening the door for tourism, business travel and trade with other highly vaccinated countries.
Kiwi businesses also have an important role in ensuring their employees are safe and protected from the virus. The Government has told essential businesses to ensure they are taking all necessary steps to keep their workers safe after it was revealed almost 100 essential workers have been infected in the Covid-19 outbreak.
In 1885, more than 2000 rioters stormed the streets of Montreal protesting mandatory vaccinations. "Kill the vaccinators," they shouted, spurred on by a distrust of the Government.
The city had just imposed compulsory vaccinations to fight the smallpox epidemic.
Smallpox went on to kill 300 million people in the 20th century.
Eventually, people came to their senses and smallpox became the first infectious disease to be eradicated by deliberate intervention.
The point of this historical insight is not to advocate for making vaccines mandatory, but to ask the question: "what have we learned from the past?" In the words of George Santayana, "those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it".
We are now in the grips of another health crisis, and more needs to be done to prevent Covid-19 misinformation.
A lot of this is in the hands of social networks, and individuals should report misinformation to police or directly to the platform.
The Government is yet to set a vaccination goal, and with Delta showing no signs of slowing, reaching herd immunity will be challenging.
The Government needs to set a strong vaccination target of 90 per cent or above, improve its education campaign and work with businesses to encourage employees to get the jab.
Incentivising the unvaccinated will be critical to reaching high vaccination rates, and now is the time to think about reaching out and convincing those who are sitting on the fence.
• Dane Ambler is the executive director of the Buy New Zealand Made campaign and ShopKiwi.