Elected Ministers need to front on vaccine delays

Sun, 24 Jul, 2022

“Auckland spent three months in lockdown, and New Zealand’s borders remained shut because the vaccine roll out was too slow, and the best Ashley Bloomfield can say is that he’d ‘like to see that written up,’” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“The Labour Government has never explained how New Zealand got from the ‘front of the queue’ for vaccines to the bottom of the OECD. When asked about New Zealand’s slow roll out today on Q+A Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said he’d ‘like to see that written up,’ moments after saying the vaccine roll out was his proudest achievement.

“Bloomfield then went on to say that Pfizer prioritised large countries and countries with more infections, but also that New Zealand’s roll out was not ready. Which one is it? The Elected Minister needs to explain: Was New Zealand’s vaccine roll out one of the slowest in the OECD because Pfizer said no, or was the product available but the Government not ready to receive and roll it out?

“If the problem was Pfizer, then how does the Government justify the Pfizer-only strategy. How can we be sure a multi-supplier strategy, used by practically every other country, would not have been faster and, overall, more effective? These questions are simply not being addressed.

“If the problem was the roll out, then when will the Government take responsibility for that? Bloomfield said they had to construct the information systems to do the roll out, how did practically every other developed country solve that problem half a year earlier than New Zealand? 

“The vaccine roll out was not the only failure, the same questions loom over PPE, testing, tracing, and rulemaking throughout the pandemic. All of these should be subject to a serious investigation with international contributors, as called for in ACT’s First 100-day plan for a new Government.

“Bloomfield’s Q+A interview has also exposed the problem with the public service being rolled out PR purposes. Bloomfield’s interview showed more skill in avoiding the truth than informing. Imagine if that is the standard of advice Ministers are getting. Everyone spinning, nobody responsible.

“Elected Ministers should be fronting the public to explain their actions in light of official advice, rather than Officials fronting to explain the failings that Elected Ministers are ultimately responsible for.”