General practices, pharmacies join COVID-19 vaccination rollout in droves

August 1, 2021

Health providers clamour to join rollout, but Māori vaccination rates still lag.

The COVID-19 vaccination rollout stepped up in August, with people aged 60-plus invited to book a time for a shot.

It comes as the Māori vaccination rate continues to lag behind the general rate.

On July 28, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the Government was extending the rollout to the first age tranche from group 4.

Ardern made the announcement the day after 350,000 vaccine doses landed in Aotearoa: bringing total deliveries for July to 1 million. A further 1.5 million are due to arrive this month.

There were 676 vaccination sites operating around the country at the end of July, including general practitioners (GPs) and pharmacies, and more were planned to come online in the first weeks of August, she said.

By the end of the first week of August, about 1.3 million people had received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. About 783,000 people had received a second dose.

Director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield said there had been a sharp rise in the number of vaccine providers around the country. This, he said, included a “much greater number of general practices and pharmacies than we anticipated at the outset”.

In the last week of July there were 180 new vaccination sites brought onto the programme, “and the number of GPs and pharmacies that come on board will continue to increase”.

Despite the increasing numbers of vaccinated in Aotearoa – at the end of July the rate of Māori COVID-19 vaccination was about half of the general rate.

Associate Health Minister (Māori health) Peeni Henare said about three quarters of the Māori population was aged between 16 and 54.

“Which means that as we look to the age bands that we’ve got scheduled in phase 4 of the roll-out of the vaccine, we expect to catch a heck of a lot of Māori communities and Māori people across the country.”

He said the expectation was that Māori vaccination numbers would “grow significantly” through to September.

There had been “challenges” in the booking system for Māori people living in rural communities, and without internet access, Henare said.