Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Hopes Astra Zeneca option will counter final vaccine resistance

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A leading immunologist is banking on the introduction of a second vaccine to pick up the last pockets of hesitant people who have so far resisted getting the jab but now face losing their jobs.

The Astra Zeneca vaccine will now be available as an alternate vaccination alongside the Pfizer vaccine as the Government moves to get the highest level of community vaccination before moving to relaxed Covid protection restrictions next month.

This morning National Immunisation Advisory Centre director Nikki Turner told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking that it would may be a good option for the vaccine hesitant who “don’t like the thought of technology” and would get vaccinated if there was another option, particularly if getting the jab was required to keep their jobs.

But she said there wouldn’t be wholesale distribution with the Astra Zeneca vaccine only be administered to a small group of people. Just a small supply of the vaccine had arrived here.

Turner said she knew that misinformation was still rife across a range of sectors and jobs.

This included an estimated 4000 workers in district health boards who are yet to be vaccinated.

It may simply mean that those people had bad experiences with themselves or their family in the past,she said.

Turner maintained New Zealand didn’t need to get Astra Zeneca any earlier as after having elected to go with Pfizer, they had managed high vaccination rates.

She also said it was “really hard” to have more than one vaccine at all delivery sites.

The Astra Zeneca vaccine would also be aimed at those who had an allergy to the MRNA vaccine or had a bad reaction to the first dose.

While she couldn’t say how many problems they’d had with the vaccine – likely under 100 – and it wasn’t always clear that it was the vaccine or not.

The second vaccine option comes as Auckland and Waikato schools juggle student timetables and parents’ wishes as they decide how and when to reopen classroom doors next week.

All children in level 3 areas will be allowed back at school from Wednesday – with just four weeks of the school year to go.

Balanced decision to go ahead with school reopening

Developmental paediatrician Dr Jin Russell said the Government’s decision to reopen schools next week was very balanced.

“What we have here is fast rising levels of vaccination particularly in Tāmaki Makaurau.

“So we need to keep that in mind as we think about school environments.”

Parents needed to remember there were now higher rates of protection – in terms of teachers being vaccinated, a high number of older secondary school students being vaccinated and the systems schools are putting in place to help prevent any transmission of Covid.

Speaking to TVNZ’s Breakfast, Russell acknowledged that the more adults who were vaccinated at a child’s home, the better protected that child would be.

Many schools were creating bubbles among the students while at school and also taking a lot of lessons and activities outside instead of in the classroom.

But there was still expected to be less occupancy at schools, as some parents would continue to keep children at home.

She also revealed work was under way at the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research to provide a better plan regarding ventilation in schools ahead of winter.

Return to school a 'sense of normality'

Associate education minister Jan Tinetti said it was about more than just the children getting back to school, but also helping them get back to a sense of normality.

From next Monday the education workforce would have had its first vaccination, she told The AM Show.

The part-time process proposed by the Ministry of Education was already being run in schools overseas and those jurisdictions hadn’t seen big outbreaks in schools and there was “less risk of spread”. Young people also hadn’t been suffering as badly from Covid, she said.

The Government had put a range of public health measures in places such as masks for children from Year 4 and ensuring social distancing.

She conceded it could be a struggle for children to wear masks, but schools could teach them.

Schools had some wonderful ideas about how they could welcome their young people back and had been working on it for some time, she said.

“This isn’t just about the vaccinated population, this is about the mental health of our young people.”

To schools where staff won’t get vaccinated, Tinetti said education officials were working directly with those schools for solutions. Schools could apply for a very short-term exemption, but from January 1 all staff had to be double-vaccinated.

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