Covid-19 Minister Chris Hipkins says the country's vaccine rollout is going "incredibly well" despite New Zealand's dwindling stocks.
Hipkins told Mike Hosking on Newstalk ZB today that New Zealand was getting "vaccines into people as fast as we are getting them into the country".
Hipkins' grilling by Hosking today comes after vaccine tracking data by the Financial Times showed that only 7.8 per cent of the total New Zealand population had received a full vaccination by June 22.
Australia has fared even worse, with only 4.7 per cent of its population fully vaccinated.
By comparison, Israel has vaccinated 57 per cent of its population, the UK 48 per cent and Chile 52.3 per cent.
New Zealand's current vaccination rate places the country behind Peru, Ecuador, Malaysia and India.
New Te Punaha Matatini modelling also revealed New Zealand won't reach population immunity for older Covid variants until there was an 83 percent vaccination rate.
However, the modelling - which was yet to be peer reviewed - suggested 97 per cent of Kiwis would need both Pfizer jabs to abandon such measures if the country was hit by a wave of a strain as transmissable as the Delta variant.
Border controls, masks and alert levels would have to remain in place but Hipkins accepted that could become the norm if new variants or outbreaks emerged once a large proportion of Kiwis had their two doses.
"If we did have a higher vaccination rate we would still likely be needing to use restrictions in the cases where we were at risk of having an outbreak of covid-19.
"There will still be a period of transition bearing in mind of what happens around the rest of the world, which has a significant impact of what happens here in New Zealand.
"As long as Covid-19 continues to spread around the world at an accelerated rate, which it is, and it continues to mutate and we continue to see new variants - continuing higher risk variants that we're seeing with the Delta variant - will mean that we will need to continue to respond here in New Zealand."
However, the vaccine would mean that people were less likely to get "extremely sick" from Covid and less likely to affect others.
As for New Zealand's sluggish vaccine rate of less than 8 per cent, Hipkins said some countries made the decision to order the Pfizer vaccine before the Government did.
"As you may recall we had four different vaccines on order and made the decision in January to switch to a Pfizer-only campaign and that meant we had to wait to till the third quarter of the year to get the bulk of our deliveries.
"Australia - who made the decision after us - are waiting till the four quarter."
Hipkins said that was just the way the vaccine market evolved and the Government hedged its bets by buying four different vaccines before working out that the Pfizer was more effective and stronger against different covid variants.
"We have to bear in mind that there are countries that are dealing with humanitarian crises because they are dealing with massive outbreaks of Covid-19 and people are dying."
"If you look at when we ordered the vaccines everyone was saying that AstraZeneca was going to be the best vaccine for everybody and we had enough orders of that to do the whole population of New Zealand, so there was an element of trying to predict the future and purchasing vaccines back late last year when we first put in orders.
"We moved faster than many including Australia to increase our orders of Pfizer when it started to shape up that that was going to be best option."
He denied that each time the country was locked down or changed alert levels was the result of New Zealanders not having double doses of the vaccine.
"If you look at the UK they have one of the highest vaccination results in the world and they're still having to do lockdowns and restrictions."
As for whether Kiwis would have to get used to living with Covid-19, Hipkins said he was unsure, but at the moment the flu jab was offered each year.
As for the country reaching a herd immunity percentage of 97, Hipkins said a range of different contexts had to be taken into account first.
"So for example, in South Auckland where we have high density of population, you'll want to see very high vaccination rates there versus say in smaller rural communities where people are more spread out and less chance of risk."
There was a still large numbers of border workers unvaccinated - 1600 - along with 800 Air New Zealand workers.
Hipkins said some of those were not required to have the vaccine as they could be Air NZ staff working the transtasman route or port workers whose occupations meant they only had to have it on a voluntary basis.
However, there were some port workers that had been "slow to take up the vaccine" and that was an area where he wanted to see some improvement, he said.