Almost 1500 border workers remain without a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine, while a similar number are overdue for their legally required regular test for Covid-19.
The importance of protection measures at the border has been underlined recently with a number of infected people on ships arriving at ports around the country, including one off the coast in Tauranga that has seen 94 port workers being tested.
The Government today revealed that only about nine of the 98 workers who dealt with the ship were fully vaccinated and two had received their first dose.
The latest data, from August 4, shows 12,439 active workers on the Border Worker Testing Register (BWTR); 84 per cent are fully vaccinated, 4 per cent (444 workers) have had one dose, and 12 per cent (1478 workers) are yet to have a single dose.
The Health Ministry also said there were 12,936 active border workers who were legally required to be regularly tested; 88 per cent (11,387 workers) were compliant, while 11 per cent (1423 workers) were overdue for their test. A further 126 workers were shown as non-compliant but their NHI numbers were still being matched with testing data.
Only 18 border workers have been fined $300 for missing their tests.
Using saliva testing instead of nasopharyngeal swabs is hoped to make testing for border workers less invasive, but it isn't ready to be fully rolled out until mid-August. Asia Pacific Healthcare Group, which has the ministry's contract for saliva testing, has only done 15 saliva tests in the four weeks to July 19.
Last week Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said he was "very concerned" about the 44 per cent of port workers - about 1000 workers - who remained unvaccinated.
He has been concerned about the vaccination rate of port workers for over two months, and has said that vaccine hesitancy was higher among port workers.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in April that all border workers would have to be vaccinated or they would be redeployed, but the first vaccination order did not apply to most privately employed border workers.
The Government widened the vaccination order last month, giving a long lead-in time before all higher-risk border workers had to be vaccinated.
For public sector border workers, the deadline is August 26, and the Ministry of Health said that only a "handful" of them still need to be vaccinated. For the privately employed, the deadline is the end of September.
Yesterday the Health Ministry said there were 11 workers on board the Rio De La Plata, off the coast of Tauranga, who had tested positive.
The proportion of border workers in the Bay of Plenty who are unvaccinated, according to answers to parliamentary questions provided to National MP Chris Bishop, is 60 per cent.
"We have a glaring hole in our border," Bishop said.
The ship is linked to a Covid-infected Australian pilot who was on board the vessel in July, in Queensland, and who later tested positive to the dangerous Delta variant.
Three other overseas vessels were confirmed to have Covid outbreaks as they travelled through New Zealand waters in recent months.
Group manager of Covid-19 vaccination operations Astrid Koornneef said work was continuing to have all privately employed border workers vaccinated by the September 30 deadline, including via one-on-one sessions with health professionals.
"Because these numbers fluctuate day on day and week on week, we never expect to get to 100 per cent fully vaccinated active workers under the BWTR."
She said new workers have to have at least one dose of the vaccine before they can start work.
Maritime Union responds
The Maritime Union admits a high proportion of port workers are unvaccinated with many reluctant to get the jab due to "misinformation".
"You're dealing with a workforce that's not necessarily going to be that responsive to the same messages as your highly educated urban audience," union spokesman Victor Billot said.
Many port workers were younger and more transient, and more likely to get information from the likes of Facebook.
The union encouraged all port workers to get vaccinated to protect themselves and their families.
Billot believed public health messaging to port workers would be better directed through one-on-one meetings from the likes of public health nurses.
"It's not going to be a case of just telling people they're being naughty."
And pulling unvaccinated staff off the frontline was also problematic, as port workers handled millions of dollars worth of exported goods.
"We've got to come up with a better solution than losing a whole group of people from the workforce. That would be a disaster for them and the economy."
Billot also said more focus was needed on ensuring international maritime crew arriving in this country had been vaccinated to reduce the chance of more "close calls".
Meanwhile, the ministry said, as of August 1, that 335 primary healthcare sites were part of the vaccination rollout, with a further 80 sites due to be vaccinating by the end of last week.
Royal NZ College of GPs medical director Dr Bryan Betty said there were about 1000 GP practices in New Zealand, and he expected more to be used as the ministry's process for giving them the green light became less bureaucratic.
"In the middle of last week, on one particular day, there were 45,000 vaccines given around the country, which had been the highest number ever. That's a direct result of general practice being involved," Betty said.
There had been frustration among GPs earlier in the year around the lack of communication from the Health Ministry about their role in the rollout, but he said that had since been remedied.
"The quicker ... more general practices can be brought on board, the more successful the programme will be."