More than 75 per cent of New Zealanders aged over 16 say they are likely to get the Covid vaccine, or have already received a jab, Chris Hipkins says.
"Ministry of Health research from April shows 77 per cent of New Zealanders aged 16 years and over say they are likely to get a vaccine or have already received a vaccine. This compares to 69 per cent in March," the Covid-19 Minister said.
More than half a million doses of the vaccine have been administered, putting the rollout ahead of where it was projected to be at this stage, Hipkins said.
"As of last night, 505,820 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have been administered, three months after the first person was vaccinated. This is a significant milestone."
Two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, three weeks apart, are required for protection from the virus, which has killed 3.4 million people - including 26 New Zealanders - since the pandemic began 18 months ago.
Meanwhile, the ministry research on vaccine potential up-take showed the number of people who said they were unlikely to get vaccinated had fallen to 12 per cent, down from 20 per cent in March and 24 per cent in December.
"Of the 12 per cent unlikely, there remains a smaller group of people who are opposed, at 7.8 per cent."
Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield has previously declined to put a figure on what number of New Zealanders would need to be vaccinated for the country to reach herd immunity, but the percentage has previously been estimated at about 70 per cent of the population.
Of Māori surveyed, 71 per cent said they would get the jab, up from 64 per cent in March, while 79 per cent of Pasifika respondents were also keen, up from 59 per cent.
Over 65s - older people are at higher risk of severe illness or death from the virus - were the most likely to get vaccinated.
The surveys were done by Horizon Research, in association with the School of Population Health at the University of Auckland, through four distinct but related surveys online.
Five have been done, the most recent of which involved 1387 respondents between April 23 and May 2.
The results were "really encouraging", Hipkins said.
"Major information campaigns, solid progress in the vaccine roll-out and strong role models in each community are making a real difference.
"Given the roll-out has been underway for three months, it is fantastic to already see a steady decline in those who say they won't get a vaccine, including in those communities considered high-risk."
It was important to understand why people might not be ready to commit to getting the vaccine.
"This research indicates that 15 per cent are still unsure whether they have to pay for the vaccine, which is why we keep repeating that it's free.
"Those who identify as disabled are more likely on average to be unsure whether they'll get vaccinated and there remains a number of people who want to know more about the safety of the vaccine, so we've still got work to do.
"But it's pleasing that the number of people with concerns about the vaccine approval process has nearly halved to 36 per cent, down from 60 per cent in December."
"New Zealand's medicine approval regime for Covid-19 vaccines is one of the most rigorous in the world. This improvement shows that while mis- and dis-information campaigns remain a concern for the Government, people are getting access to good and accurate information."
A Medsafe report last month into adverse events showed no potential safety issues with the Pfizer vaccine, which has been chosen by the Government - and signed off by the Ministry of Health's regulatory authority - to vaccinate New Zealanders aged 16 and over.
This week, Hipkins announced a $1.4 billion vaccination fund over two years to ensure Covid-19 vaccines are free for everyone.
The first jabs have been given to border workers, frontline medical staff, older and vulnerable South Aucklanders.
The roll-out moves to group 3 - over 65s and people with certain medical conditions - this month, although availability has varied across some district health boards.
The general population roll-out is expected to begin in July and take the rest of the year.
It took 49 days to reach 100,000 doses, two weeks to reach 200,000, 12 days to get to 300,000, eight days to hit 400,000 and another eight days to reach the half million, Hipkins said.
"Given the complexity and sheer scale of the task at hand, this is a strong confidence booster in the vaccination programme as we prepare for the bulk of the vaccine to arrive in country from July.
"We know our supply of vaccines will be constrained to the end of June, but our planning has always been predicated on larger amounts of vaccine arriving from July, enabling us to finish vaccinating group 3 and then move into the wider population.
The "vast majority" of district health boards had started vaccinating group 3 or would do so in the next few weeks, Hipkins said.
"We remain on track to make the vaccine available to everyone in New Zealand by the end of 2021."
Hipkins said the increases in confidence were very positive, particularly among Māori and Pasifika, who previously had quite high hesitation around the vaccine yet were among the most at-risk of severe impacts from Covid-19.
Getting over 70 per cent was important as this was seen as the minimum currently to reach herd immunity.
Hipkins said he put this down to the Government and relevant authorities being "very careful" with the rollout to provide assurance it was safe.
People were also having face-to-face conversations with doctors and nurses in their communities about any vaccine concerns, which was largely proving effective.
"It gives good confidence for the latter part of the year when we will be ramping up."
He expected the confidence to grow as the roll-out progressed.
Many of those reporting hesitancy largely did so because they were fit and healthy and with the border closed saw little risk.
As the world began to open up further, Hipkins said these people would likely want to get vaccinated too.
Regarding herd immunity, Hipkins said modellers were still working on exactly what proportion would need to be vaccinated, as the new variations complicated projections.
They were also learning more about being able to vaccinate younger age groups; 12 to 15-year-olds could now be vaccinated.
Misinformation continued to be concerning, Hipkins said, and some people were going to "great lengths" to distribute pamphlets designed to look "very credible".
"If no one else, people should trust their GP, their nurse to give them good factual information."