Transport authorities in Wellington and Auckland have raised concerns bus drivers are not a priority group for getting the Covid-19 vaccine.
The vaccine rollout is aiming to reach two million Kiwis within four months, with people at higher risk if they catch Covid-19 being next in line behind border and healthcare workers.
Older people with relevant health conditions living in South Auckland, those in aged residential care homes or living in a whānau care setting will be offered the vaccine next.
Then from May it will be Kiwis aged over 70, then those aged over 65 before the vaccine is offered to the remaining population in July.
Greater Wellington Regional Council chairman Daran Ponter said he was "somewhat taken aback" frontline public transport staff were not included in any of the priority groups.
Ponter said these workers could sometimes have hundreds of transactions with the travelling public on a daily basis.
"It's about recognising that we're not out of Covid-19 by a long shot and those people who were essential workers a year ago are still essential workers today," he said.
"We would expect that, for their own sake and for the sake of people travelling on public transport, that they would have been prioritised."
An Auckland Transport spokesperson said they were keen for frontline staff to get vaccinated because of their high level of interaction with the public.
"We are taking guidance from the Ministry of Health and we are working with Waka Kotahi NZTA."
Both AT and GWRC noted that many bus drivers would be captured in the over-65 priority group which was positive but ironic, Ponter said.
Tramways Union Wellington Branch secretary Kevin O'Sullivan said it was a surprise to him that bus drivers were not being prioritised.
"If they want the vaccine, it should be available to them as part of that group of people who are perhaps more exposed than others might be."
O'Sullivan said he attended a meeting on February 11 with the Health Minister, Transport Minister and Covid-19 Response Minister, along with a wide range of union representatives.
He said he left with the impression the vaccine would be available to bus drivers within a month.
But Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said there was no specific commitment to sequencing for any group, other than that those working in the most high-risk workplaces, such as MIQ and at the border, being prioritised.
Hipkins confirmed the meeting took place and a number of issues related to the vaccine rollout were discussed.
He noted it occurred well in advance of the recent Cabinet decision on sequencing.
"The key message for everyone is that the Government has purchased enough stock to ensure that over time, anyone in New Zealand who wants a vaccine can access one.
"At this point, bus drivers do not fall into the first priority categories under the sequencing framework", Hipkins said.
A Ministry of Health spokesperson said they were pleased to see groups of New Zealanders eager to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
"The Government is targeting those most at risk of getting and spreading Covid-19 and those most at risk of getting seriously sick from it, in the next phase of the vaccine roll-out."
The priority groups
The 50,000 border and MIQ workers, their household contacts and the people they live with. This started last month and the vast bulk will be completed this month, with at least one dose administered.
Approximately 480,000 frontline workers and people living in high-risk settings. Starting with the 57,000 healthcare workers on community frontlines, and then moving through to healthcare workers protecting our most vulnerable and some priority populations.
And anyone who lives in the Counties Manukau DHB area who is 65 and older or who has an underlying health condition is also in Group 2.
This started in February and will continue through to May.
Priority populations. Approximately 1.7 million people who are at higher risk if they catch Covid-19. This is planned to start in May.
The remainder of the general population – approximately two million people. Starting from July.