6 Oct 2021

Covid vaccinations: 'We must leave no-one behind' - leading immunologist

From Checkpoint, 5:40 pm on 6 October 2021

A New Zealand immunologist says we must encourage people to get a vaccine and "leave no one behind".

The gap between pfizer jabs has been shortened again from six weeks back to three to help pump up the number of fully vaccinated people.

The time between shots was pushed out in August when supplies were tight and the government wanted to give as many people as possible at least one shot.

The government's also unveiled plans for Super Saturday; a national day of action on October 16 to get as many people vaccinated as possible  - with clinics working extended hours .

Meanwhile other countries are already ordering an as yet unapproved antiviral treatment for Covid as well as preparing to give a third vaccination - a booster to prolong immunity.

Director of the Malaghan Institute and Director of the Vaccine Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand, Immunologist Graham Le Gros told Checkpoint booster shots will be needed next year but in the meantime it is important everyone is vaccinated.

"First of all we've got to get everyone with a vaccine in their arm, at least twice, this year so we can have a Christmas holiday.

"We must leave no one behind."

The only way to safe longterm when restrictions are relaxed is to consider a booster, particularly for those who are vulnerable, he said.

"Which booster? We're not sure because the data is not in yet."

There's still work to be done to reach people who are hesitant to get a vaccine, he said.

Le Gros says we were slow to start vaccinations because we thought we could avoid community transmission.

"Well that hasn't worked so well because the virus has got here."

He said Auckland couldn't stay in lockdown forever and there are societal and health issues at play.

"We've just got to get in behind the vaccine campaign and get to those people who do want to or a just a little bit hesitant, to get them vaccinated. At the end of the day we can't hold the hold country to ransom for those standout anarchists or whatever who don't want to get vaccinated."