The first batch of AstraZeneca vaccines has arrived in the country as the Government tries to boost vaccine rates by offering a second option to those who cannot or will not take the Pfizer vaccine.
A 100,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine arrived from Australia and would be available from November 26. It was for those who could not get the Pfizer vaccine for medical reasons, or those who refused to take Pfizer vaccine but were open to another vaccine.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said Pfizer remained the vaccine of choice for New Zealand, and the AstraZeneca vaccine would only be available from a limited number of places.
However, he said he hoped it would ensure more people got a vaccination.
"Looking at today's case numbers, and the current geographical spread, I can't stress enough how important it is that we have as many people as possible vaccinated."
Medsafe granted provisional approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine for people aged 18 and older in July this year. The 100,000 doses from Australia's manufacturing facility are part of the Government's advance purchase agreement with AstraZeneca for 7.6 million doses.
It comes as Covid-19 spread further around the North Island and in the lead-up to Auckland's boundaries reopening to travellers who are either vaccinated or have a negative test result.
Today, Hipkins warned people to get used to seeing Covid-19 spreading across the country, saying it would only speed up once Auckland's boundaries opened but the Government hoped to avoid a "massive acceleration".
"We've been pretty upfront over the last couple of weeks that we will see cases spreading outside Auckland, and that is likely to continue. Certainly, the easing of the boundary is going to result in a more rapid spread of cases, but we do want to try and manage the spread of cases so we can keep on top of it.
"We don't want to see a massive acceleration in the spread of Covid 19. We do want to try and make sure we are doing this in a way that is managed, and that we are containing the risk as much as we can."
It comes as cases were reported in more new places in the North Island – including Palmerston North, Levin and Tauranga today. There are now cases in Auckland, Waikato, Northland, Canterbury, Lakes District/Taupō, Wairarapa, Manawatū and Bay of Plenty.
Hipkins said that was why the Government had repeatedly warned it could not keep Delta inside Auckland forever: "this is the new phase we are entering into."
He urged people who were still unvaccinated to get vaccinated before Auckland's boundaries opened on December 15, after which people must either have a vaccination pass or a negative Covid test. I
After January 17, those requirements would drop and people would be able to travel freely.
National Party Covid-19 Response spokesman Chris Bishop said Covid was now making its way down the North Island, and was here to stay, so people needed to get vaccinated ahead of summer.
However, he said the spread – and the fact that more than 5000 people were now isolating at home, including 2000 with Covid – only highlighted how ridiculous it was that MIQ was still required rather than home isolation for incoming travellers.
He also questioned what happened to the Government's original 90 per cent target before moving the country to the traffic light system, saying it showed the Government was "making it up as they go". That left regions with little idea what would happen to them ahead of Christmas.
While Ardern has made it clear Auckland will enter that traffic light system at the most restricted red setting, other regions will be decided on later.
"Christmas is coming down the line very quickly, and people are trying to plan but they have no idea," Bishop said.