9 Mar 2021

NZC lobbied Ashley Bloomfield for player vaccinations during Black Caps match

8:57 pm on 9 March 2021

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield was lobbied by cricket bosses for priority access to the Covid-19 vaccine for its players while he was an invited guest hosted by New Zealand Cricket at Sunday's Twenty20 double header in Wellington.

The Blackcaps huddle during a Blackcaps training session at the Basin Reserve 2021.

The Black Caps before one of their T20 matches against Australia in Wellington. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

It was revealed today that Dr Bloomfield went to the Black Caps match against Australia on Sunday and talked to NZ Cricket (NZC) chief executive David White while there.

A statement from the Ministry of Health says Dr Bloomfield undertook to take the matter of players potentially being vaccinated as part of planning for the Covid-19 vaccine rollout.

Sports Minister Grant Robertson was being hosted by NZC too, sparking debate about who should get priority ahead of the government unveiling its vaccination rankings tomorrow.

Eight Black Caps players are leaving the country soon for the Indian Premier League in early April. The Black Caps also have matches scheduled in England in June - two test matches against England and the final of the World Test Championship against India.

Black Caps coach Gary Stead said he hoped the players and staff would be vaccinated before heading overseas.

"I think people want to be vaccinated. I think that's a natural thing when there's a pandemic like this going on around the world, but that ultimately isn't our decision... that's something that the government will make."

Stead expected the Indian Premier League organisers would likely vaccinate the Black Caps involved in the competition.

Black Caps Coach Gary Stead

Black Caps Coach Gary Stead Photo: PHOTOSPORT

As for who should be prioritised for the vaccination, an Auckland man RNZ spoke to in Aotea Square said some groups should be put ahead of sports people.

"I'm thinking prioritizing essential workers like the police, firefighters, and especially people working on emergency ambulance," he said.

Another woman also said it was more important to protect communities in the country first.

"Like people who work even through level 3 like at the grocery stores, supermarkets and I guess like bus drivers," she said.

Other people RNZ spoke to said migrants who needed to go back to their home country to visit their family should be prioritised.

However, Aucklander Tanmay Sharma thought sportspeople's livelihoods and careers were important too.

"There is a high risk for those sports individuals who are going offshore and playing sports and representing the country, even if it's a private affair, their life is not going to stop as well, right?"

Minister for Sport and Recreation Grant Roberston said the government was trying to strike a balance between supporting economic activity alongside taking the best health advice.

He said a lot of sports were interested in whether those who had to travel overseas for competitions could get vaccinated.

"I've had a number of different conversations as the Minister of Sport and Recreation, the government's working its way through how we could do that, but not just for sports people either. You know there are other people who have to travel for particular reasons overseas," he said.

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Minister for Sport and Recreation Grant Robertson. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said a decision on the sequencing of vaccination will not be influenced by lobbying.

He said the focus was on the front line workers and the new framework set to be released tomorrow would reveal more details on who's prioritised next.

"We will set out a very clear framework and a very clear rationale for who's in each group and why they are in that group," he said.

National Party's Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop said there needed to be more transparency on the rollout timeline.

"If you compare New Zealand to Australia - in Australia you can go to a website, punch in your post code and your details and you'll find out basically when you're going to get the vaccine, that's not the situation in New Zealand and hasn't been for quite some time now."

There are also questions about whether staff at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will get the vaccine before they head offshore.

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta said she was vigilant about the care of staff being sent overseas.

She said those who were already abroad would likely be covered by the vaccination programme in their respective countries.

"We're working really hard to ensure that those about people who are representing us and going overseas that their situation will be taken into account by the Ministry of Health, and I'm sure there is a small number who will be affected."

The New Zealand Olympic team is also awaiting word on when they will get vaccinated.

The Olympic Committee said it was working with the government on access to vaccines to protect athletes at the games in Japan that is scheduled to start in late July.

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