Auditor General John Ryan's report into preparations for the nationwide roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine should be a shot in the arm ahead of the nationwide effort to come in the second half of this year.
The report points out that uncertainty still hangs over exactly when the majority of doses will arrive in New Zealand over the rest of the year.
The Auditor General's report was commissioned to make observations about progress to date, and how well-positioned the programme is for the nationwide roll-out.
The report focuses on how the Government went about procuring the vaccine; establishing the vaccination programme; and how it is managing the most important risks.
In each of these areas, it must be said, the results have been mostly positive.
New Zealand made arrangements to purchase Janssen Pharmaceutica, Novavax, AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines but, following initial results from trials and overseas rollouts, opted to greatly boost purchases of the latter. An initial purchase of 1.5 million Pfizer shots has now been increased to 10 million, enough to vaccinate our 5 million population twice.
In early May, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was found to be more than 95 per cent effective against severe disease or death from the variants first detected in the United Kingdom (B.1.1.7) and South Africa (B.1.351) in two studies based on real-world use of the vaccine.
Though the efficacy against infection varied between the two studies, both also showed the vaccine provides strong protection.
At the latest count, 388,877 doses have been delivered, 8 per cent above the Health Ministry's target.
Yes, there have been hitches. A South Auckland centre suggested it might need to cut operating hours due to a lack of trained vaccination staff.
People have arrived at vaccination centres at appointed times only to find queues ahead of them. Some centres trialled walk-in vaccinations, despite Ministry of Health advice that appointments were necessary. At least one centre had to suspend operations after running out of car parking.
It was already apparent that some co-ordinators were departing from official policy in trying to balance obligations to those who had booked appointments with the need to avoid leftover vaccines going to waste.
By carrying out this review during the programme's planning stage, and the early stage of the roll-out, any potential improvements in the Ministry of Health's approach can be identified, and swiftly acted on.
The Auditor General has cited concerns that what is in place now will not be sufficient when the number of people to be vaccinated increases significantly. "I am not yet confident that all the pieces will fall into place quickly enough."
Quite rightly, this is not the end of the Auditor General's role in monitoring the roll-out. Further, he intends to look again at how the vaccination programme is progressing and being managed, and form an overall assessment of how effectively the vaccination programme has been managed.
The Auditor General's role is to provide information and assurance to Parliament and the public. However, the management of the programme remains the responsibility of the Ministry of Health, and that is where improvements will need to come from.