Did I hear Chris Hipkins say 90 per cent of New Zealanders over 65 have had a vaccination? It didn't make the news after Wednesday's press conference but it is confirmed on the Health Ministry's website. Ninety per cent is fantastic.
It's more than other countries appear to be achieving. It's more than I dared hope we would get to. It's better than the ratio among the superannuitants in my regular Friday morning tennis match. Of the five of us who rotate to play, one is adamant he will not be vaccinated.
He loves a lively debate courtside and this one has continued online over the lockdown. He's sent us links to all sorts of supposed experts who support him and one of us countered with solid research of his own.
I tend to judge these scientific debates on tone. Reliable science, I believe, is not alarmist. It doesn't browbeat you. It is calm, measured, balanced, intellectually honest, which means it acknowledges contrary evidence and uncertainties. On my tone test the advocates of vaccination win, hands down.
If we can reach 90 per cent vaccination among the over-65s there's no reason I can see that we cannot reach that level in the entire population now eligible for it. Modelling shows that if we get to 90 per cent before the border opens in the new year, the virus could cause 11,400 hospital cases over the next two years, which sounds a lot until you realise public hospitals handle 1.2 million cases of all kinds in a year.
"If we can get into the 90s," said modeller Michael Plank on Thursday, "the threat will be much smaller and could be limited to a more manageable number of hospitalisations with some additional public health measures."
We can get there. The Delta variant has done wonders for the vaccination programme. In the first week of the lockdown we saw long lines of cars at testing stations. Many were reportedly waiting for hours. Jacinda Ardern advised them to bring a lunch. Many obviously had no symptoms because she and Dr Bloomfield had to ask people not to go for a test unless they'd been contacted or felt ill.
There's only one reason I can think of to explain why so many people waited in those lines for so long. Fear. It's quite possible that populations with very little exposure to Covid-19 have a much higher level of fear of the virus than those in infected places.
One or two articles from New Zealanders living in infected countries have expressed surprise at the fears for them they hear from folks at home. If that fear can be turned to our advantage it could give us the highest vaccination rate in the world.
At the beginning of this month when vaccination became available to everyone over 12, those lines at testing stations disappeared and the daily vaccination rate rose to a level that would outrun the supply. Ardern, to her great credit, managed to arrange stopgap supplies from Spain and Denmark, so there is not stopping us now.
But she will need to do more to maintain the momentum as we come out of alert levels. We know from experience that we relax as soon as we're released. Lockdowns are like a long nightmare we want to forget as soon as we wake. We don't talk about it, don't want to hear or read about it again for a while.
To put an end to lockdowns and get the borders open again, Sir John Key has suggested the Government needs to do two things: put more pizazz into the vaccination programme and put some "tension" into it by telling us when the border will be opened.
We got a little pizazz this week. A "Mr Whippy" bus was a start but a fairly obvious one. Australia has already has the branding prize with "Jabba the Bus". There's more we could do. Key cites the Telethons that used to drum up funds for worthy causes by generating donor rivalry between towns, clubs, companies, communities of all sorts.
Telethons were a rather daring application of a new network tool called live television. These days creative people could do the same for a vaccination programme with the wonders of the web. Possibly that was the sort of thing Sir Ian Taylor had in mind when he told the Prime Minister this week the team of 5 million had too much talent still "sitting on the bench".
But it will take fun and fear to get to 90 per cent, I think. Lockdowns have succeeded in suppressing another outbreak but new variants will get in. These debilitating lockdowns will cease when we get sufficient numbers immunised and it now looks like we can.