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"This virus is bad and the virus will find you."
That's the message to anti-vaxxers from Professor Graham Le Gros from the Malaghan Institute.
Le Gros told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking that people preaching the anti-vax message should not even be getting any air-time.
Work needed to be done to take down the barriers preventing some people getting vaccinated - including misinformation, he acknowledged.
He described anti-vaxxers who did not want a jab as "nuts".
"We need to find the barriers - the barriers are misinformation.
"The barriers are some people are just not engaged with the mainstream politics... we need to talk to those people - make them aware that they don't want this virus. This virus is bad and the virus will find you. If we don't get vaccinated - they'll be in trouble."
Le Gros said now was the time to get vaccinated, as the Government has indicated that 90 per cent is the vaccination rate target.
"Now we're catching up."
About children getting the vaccine, results showed that up to 5-year-olds, it was safe, Le Gros said.
"We now know...it's safe and it really works well. It makes them really immune. It means we can really block off the ability of this virus to move around the community in the year to come."
Forced jabs mulled for healthcare workers
Key healthcare workers could be forced into getting vaccinated in the latest move by officials considering how best to control future Covid-19 outbreaks.
The tougher Government stance came as Auckland celebrated a return to level 3 freedoms after five weeks of hard lockdown, with many going back to work as others hurried to takeaway queues for KFC, McDonald's and coffee.
With increased movement of people, Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins again stepped up the focus on vaccines.
He is now exploring whether it's possible to require health workers in roles likely to come into contact with Covid - including aged-care employees and trainee nurses - to be fully vaccinated to keep their jobs.
Seventy-five per cent of about 80,000-people working at district health boards are now fully vaccinated - but some DHBs are lagging behind.
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Police also revealed 77 per cent of their staff have had at least one dose, while 96 per cent of border workers have done likewise ahead of a deadline just one week away requiring them to be vaccinated.
However, the no-jab-no-job drive by health organisations has left some Auckland University of Technology nursing students frustrated after being told they couldn't complete their courses unless already fully vaccinated.
"I'm worried about the knock-on effect. The delay will likely mean a shortage of new nurses available in November," one student, who didn't wish to be named, said.
Call for masks in churches
Otago University's Dr Nitasha Rimar said people heading back to church in alert level 2 regions should consider wearing masks while worshipping.
Speaking on TVNZ's Breakfast show, Rimar acknowledged the potential danger of not wearing a mask inside church during praise and worship and singing activities - when the risk of transmission was higher between people, if Covid was present.
"That's a bit concerning, especially in level 2 regions, should the virus spread outside of Auckland."
Rimar acknowledged the high number of people who contracted the virus connected to the Māngere church cluster during this current outbreak.
"We now know from our own outbreak - in the church cluster - that over 300 infections occurred and so it is imperative that we reconsider that."
That cluster remains the largest sub-cluster involved in the Auckland outbreak.
And as Auckland enjoys its second day at alert level 3 - and takeaways - Rimar said those working at takeaway establishments around the city should really be wearing masks while preparing food out the back.
"In the US, factory floors were the hardest hit by Covid when the pandemic started," she said.
"And that's concerning because we know how crowded those kitchens likely are right now given the high demand for takeaways for those in Auckland."
Lifting vaxx rates
Associate Health Minister Peeni Henare told the AM Show there were some Māori and Pacific communities whose vaccine rates were low and it was the Government's job to get them higher.
Henare said the numbers had improved significantly over the past six weeks, but they needed to throw the kitchen sink at every effort to make sure they had access to the vaccine.
He acknowledged "they had a mountain to climb". The groups lagging behind were primarily based on ethnicity, but there were also low rates in the rural communities.
"The only thing I can say to everybody out there is to make yourself available to the vaccine."
Henare said as the focus of the country looked to reopen its borders and the focus shifted to those who had not been vaccinated, evidence around the world showed inequities would continue to grow for those communities. He said it was their job to ensure those communities had access to the vaccines so it didn't happen and they weren't shut out of things.
More buses being led by Māori health providers are heading out to communities that officials have not yet been able to reach, Henare told Breakfast.
Despite more Māori coming forward to be vaccinated during this outbreak, Henare said more people in this community needed to come forward as vaccination rates among Māori were still relatively low.
In the last six days, for example, up to 1400 Māori had come through vaccination sites to get a jab.
Henare said a boost in financial support being given to Māori health providers on the ground in Auckland was in response to the pressure being felt by those providers during the current outbreak.
Although those Māori health providers specifically targeted Māori, they continued to help people from all communities and backgrounds turning up to get vaccinated or seeking help.
"It shows that the system is working but it isn't necessarily targeted at Māori," he said.
"So yes, they are feeling the pressure because they're delivering vaccines to anyone and everyone, but we've got a challenge to bring the Māori community forward."
The race to vaccinate comes as the future of the current Covid outbreak remains in the balance.
Director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said Auckland's five weeks in level 4 had set a strong foundation for New Zealand to stamp out Covid spread in the community.
Yet he also admitted to losing sleep over the tough decision to move down to level 3 and that it's possible the outbreak could get out of control, leading to future lockdowns.
For all the risks, Aucklanders leapt at the chance to grab takeout food and go contactless shopping.
Greasy food lovers choked drive-through outlets from early yesterday morning to get their long-awaited fix.
About 80 cars were in line for McDonald's on Lincoln Rd in West Auckland just after 12.30am yesterday with cars queuing out onto Lincoln Rd.
"The masses will be out tomorrow so we thought just come in when we can, while everyone is sleeping," one McDonald's lover told the Herald.
Upmarket Ponsonby Rd eateries were also doing a brisk trade late yesterday evening as the queue to the local KFC also spilled on to the street.
Some have even eyed KFC and other popular treats as useful tools to boosting vaccination numbers among hard-to-reach groups.
Auckland councillor Josephine Bartley suggested vaccination staff should line local drive-throughs in Covid hotspots offering those ordering food the chance to also get a jab.
"People are going to be waiting in line for ages anyway, they might as well get a vaccination while they're there," she said earlier this week.
Bartley updated her Twitter followers on Wednesday after receiving a response from Restaurant Brands chief brand and marketing officer Geraldine Oldham.
The email states the KFC NZ franchise holder has been approached by the Government "to discuss the potential of this concept".
Hipkins also gave a shout out to Taranaki DHB for offering a bacon snack to those wanting a vaccination.
He said yesterday New Zealand needed to aim to have more than 90 per cent of the eligible population fully vaccinated to enjoy greater freedoms in the future.
That included ensuring 90 per cent vaccination rates in every ethnic group.
With young people being the group with the lowest vaccination rate, the push was now on to get them to come forward to be vaccinated, he said.
The focus had also shifted to health teams and border workers.
In an email seen by the Herald, AUT last week informed all its nursing students they needed to be vaccinated to complete their course.
"Even if you are offered a placement, you will still need to wait until you are double vaccinated before you are allowed back into the hospital," the email said.
An AUT spokeswoman said the requirement to be fully vaccinated had been set by the university's clinical partners where students undergo work placements.
She also said the university had been encouraging students to get vaccinations from the time they first became available.
However, the student the Herald spoke with said she had only had her first dose and would now have to wait five weeks before getting her second.
A push was also on to boost vaccination numbers across all staff working at the nation's district health boards.
Current double dose vaccination rates range from a high of 89 per cent at Auckland DHB to a low of 49 per cent at the West Coast DHB.
Frontline border workers are also just one week away from a vaccine deadline.
So far 96 per cent of 12,800 registered border workers have had at least one dose while 485 workers are yet to have one.
Of the 96 per cent to have had a jab, 736 have had one injection while 11,587 are fully vaccinated.
Vaccination orders require all those in jobs at the border, including the ports, to be vaccinated by the end of September – or face losing their job or being redeployed into a different position.
Just 44 per cent of port workers had earlier been vaccinated by the end of August when the low vaccination rates were highlighted by the visits of several vessels with Covid-19 cases on board. But that number had since jumped to 90 per cent.
Hipkins praised the result, but National Party Covid-19 spokesman Chris Bishop said it had taken too long to get such a high-risk workforce vaccinated, given they had been able to get a jab since February.
It comes as there were 23 new Covid community cases announced yesterday with just one of the cases yet to be linked back to a person known to have the virus.
No new community cases were discovered in the outbreak outside of Auckland in northern Hauraki, with Bloomfield announcing the area had moved to alert level 3 due to great test results and compliance with restrictions by the local community.