7 Oct 2021

Covid-19: Kiwis should prepare to encounter virus - Baker

From Morning Report, 7:25 am on 7 October 2021

A leading epidemiologist says everyone in New Zealand should plan to encounter Covid-19 before Christmas, and they'd better be prepared.

Professor Michael Baker is urging people to get vaccinated, as the country fights off an outbreak of the delta variant.

He's backing a change to recommended gap between Pfizer vaccinations, which the government has cut in half, from six weeks to three, in light of the increased risk from Delta.

The government was initially recommending a three-week gap earlier in the rollout, before doubling it to six weeks, and then reducing it back down to three.

The Ministry of Health announced the advice yesterday as it reported 39 new cases and one death.

Baker says the drop isn't going to make too much difference.

"There's marginally less antibodies generated if was a three-week interval, but remember, this is the still the recommended interval by the manufacturer," Baker told Morning Report.

"This is what all the trials were done with. So, after your first dose, they found that you had about 50 percent protection against symptomatic infection and then after your second dose, it rose to 90 percent within two days, and a week after that 95 percent protection.

"So, it's extremely high, following the manufacturer's standard approach."

He said the lockdown in Auckland had been successful at the start, but its efficacy dropped once the virus spread into communities that weren't following restrictions.

"I think the control measures in Auckland, which succeeded in stopping widespread transmission, at a certain point didn't work anymore.

"For around four weeks, we had this very entrenched transmission in Auckland, and I think that was because there was transmission in marginalised groups who were not engaged with the response. So, we know that pattern is continuing at the moment."

The way to fight that wasn't new though.

"The broad public health principles apply as with any population, you engage with the organisation, you get their leaders to help.

"I mean, I'm sure they are concerned, I know I've spoken to some gang leaders and I know they're concerned about the wellbeing of their communities. That's the critical step."