The schedule for who will get the Covid-19 jab and when has been released by the Government and it reveals that vulnerable people in South Auckland will be prioritised.

A majority of New Zealanders will have access to the vaccine from July, but nearly two million at-risk people will be prioritised first.

The rollout has already begun with border workers and their household contacts, which the Government has labelled Group 1. This is expected to include about 55,000 people in total.

From the end of the month, Group 2 will start with the immunisation of around 57,000 frontline health workers who could be exposed to Covid-19 in their day jobs, perhaps because they swab people in the community. These workers have been identified as Group 2.a for the purposes of scheduling, while Group 2.b will involve more than 400,000 health workers who work with vulnerable people – such as aged care homes – and a select group of vulnerable people who live in high-risk settings.

Group 2.b will include older people or those with comorbidities who live in South Auckland, people in aged residential care and some older people who live in a “whānau environment”. This latter section of the population will be serviced by Māori and Pacific healthcare providers who will be allocated 40,000 courses of vaccine.

The remainder of the vulnerable population will be vaccinated as part of Group 3. The Government has not released when these vaccinations might start. This will involve the immunisation of 317,000 people over 75 who don’t meet the requirements to be in Group 2.b, 432,000 people between 65 and 74 who don’t meet those requirements and 730,000 people with preexisting conditions that put them at risk for worse health outcomes if they contract Covid-19.

Those conditions include coronary heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease/chronic respiratory conditions, kidney disease and cancer. People who are pregnant are also included in Group 3.

From July, the remaining two million adults will have access to the jab as part of the general rollout.

“The Ministry of Health is working with Pfizer on a delivery schedule to ensure a smooth rollout and a scaling up of our vaccination programme,” Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said.

“Over two million New Zealanders are in line to start receiving the vaccine over the next four months with a focus on protecting those most at risk of getting the virus or being harmed by it, while also reducing the chance of ongoing spread and future outbreaks.

“We are asking all New Zealanders to get vaccinated. Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect your whānau, their lives and their livelihoods.”

The vaccine will be free to anyone who wants it and will not be mandatory.

Earlier on Wednesday, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said anyone who wants a vaccine will have had the chance to get the jab by the end of the year.

Hipkins said work was underway to make the vaccine easy to access.

“Workers and residents of long-term residential care environments will get the vaccine at their workplace. There will also be Māori and Pacific providers, pop-up centres, GPs, medical and hauora centres, community clinics and larger scale events,” he said.

“An online tool that helps people find out when they can get the vaccine will be launched shortly. It describes the four broad groups and will take people through a series of questions to work out when it’ll be their turn.”

Two other groups are being considered for prioritisation: people who need a vaccine on compassionate grounds and those who need one to represent New Zealand overseas. This latter category could include members of the Black Caps, who lobbied Bloomfield for early access to the vaccine during a cricket match over the weekend.

Marc Daalder is a senior political reporter based in Wellington who covers climate change, health, energy and violent extremism. Twitter/Bluesky: @marcdaalder

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