Covid 19 Delta outbreak – The 90% Project: Poll shows little faith in reaching vaccination target by end of year

Just 40 per cent of New Zealanders believe the country will reach a vaccination target the Government has set for removing Covid restrictions by the end of the year, according to a new poll.

However, the NZ Herald-Talbot Mills Research poll also showed Aucklanders had a more optimistic outlook, with 50 per cent thinking the target would be reached by the end of the year.

And there was still strong support among respondents for keeping international border restrictions in place until the target was reached, rather than setting a date, as suggested by National and Act.

The Government says once at least 90 per cent of eligible people have been fully vaccinated across all DHBs it will introduce its traffic light system, an approach to living with the virus and away from using lockdowns.

It has also signalled in the first quarter of next year a shift away from MIQ for fully-vaccinated travellers from low-risk countries, among other options, but also based on reaching high vaccination rates.

A NZ Herald-Talbot Mills poll, conducted across the week October 27 to November 3, has found just 40 per cent of respondents thought the target could be reached by the end of the year, and 57 per cent by the end of January.

Nineteen per cent said it could be reached at a later date, while 11 per cent said it would never happen. Thirteen per cent said they were unsure.

So far no DHBs have reached the targets, but Waitematā, Auckland, Capital and Coast, Canterbury and Southern have all passed 90 per cent for at least first doses, and are on track to reach the target by the end of the year.

Some of the more rural DHBs have much further to go: Tairāwhiti and Northland DHBs both sit around 80 per cent for at least single doses.

The poll also showed still strong public support for waiting until the 90 per cent target was reached to ease international border restrictions, rather than setting a “day of freedom” when everybody would have had a chance to be vaccinated.

Of respondents, 59 per cent said the Government should wait until at least 90 per cent were fully vaccinated, while 33 per cent wanted to set a date.

This was a slight change from 64 per cent and 26 per cent respectively from a poll in September.

The poll also found still-increasing support for getting the jab, with 92 per cent in support and just 3 per cent each saying they would probably not or definitely not get a vaccine.

Support was well up from 81 per cent in June, with 16 per cent at the time opposed. There was also a 1 per cent increase in support from October.

As of Thursday, 88.6 per cent of those aged over 12 had received at least one dose, and 76.5 per cent were fully vaccinated.

The Government has not said when it expects the 90 per cent target to be met, however it has long said all eligible New Zealanders would have had a chance to be vaccinated by the end of the year.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the poll showed strong ongoing support for the Government’s approach.

“A 90 per cent target for each DHB means we will have one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, ensuring all our communities have good levels of protection from the virus before restrictions are eased.

“Right across the country we are so close to opening back up again without having experienced the loss of lives and damage to our economy that Covid-19 has inflicted on so many other countries.

“I do encourage anyone who hasn’t yet been vaccinated to do so quickly so we can all move forward with confidence as soon as possible.”

National Party Covid-19 spokesman Chris Bishop said he wasn’t surprised by the poll results.

It was likely the larger metro areas – such as Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch – would reach the target by the end of the year, but not the more regional DHBs, he said.

National on Thursday launched a campaign to end MIQ for fully-vaccinated travellers from low-risk locations, where there was little or no Covid-19, and require a week at home for those from higher-risk places where the virus is circulating.

Those travellers would also have to return negative pre-departure tests.

Bishop said it was premised on new data that showed since August 23 just two fully vaccinated travellers in MIQ have tested positive later than day eight in MIQ.

Bishop said the still-strong support for keeping the tight borders, as in the poll, could depend on how the question was asked.

“I think there would be more support if it was framed around fully-vaccinated travellers from low-risk countries.”

Immunologist Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu said reaching over 90 per cent fully vaccinated would take time, but it was important nobody was left behind.

In particular, Māori and Pacific communities, who were disadvantaged by the vaccination roll-out’s focus on older age groups first, needed more time and effort to overcome access and information barriers, she said

This week Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson told Newsroom he didn’t think Māori, currently 55 per cent fully vaccinated, would reach the target this year.

Because of more adverse health risks, if there were to be targets, Sika-Paotonu said those vulnerable communities needed to be aiming for at least 95 per cent coverage before there was a move away from restrictions.

There was momentum building, with extra resources allocated and Māori-led vaccination outreach programmes now helping Māori vaccination rates increase faster than any other ethnicity.

“We still have a way to go but it is really encouraging the huge effort now and seeing those levels increase. We will get there, but it is important we don’t leave anybody behind.”

The poll results come as the Government works on options for Aucklanders to be able to leave the region for Christmas and the summer holidays.

While Auckland’s three DHBs could potentially hit the 90 per cent fully-vaccinated target in the coming weeks, the highly uneven nature of the vaccine rollout means some DHBs would not likely to reach equity until the new year, if at all.

Hipskins they were talking with different sectors and groups about options, after copping flak for earlier suggesting Aucklanders could be allocated “time slots” to leave the region.

“No system will be perfect, and it will be challenging, but we are looking at how we can use tools like vaccine certificates and testing to achieve these goals,” he said.

There were 139 new cases announced on Thursday in the Delta outbreak that began in August, including 136 in Auckland, two in Waikato, which and one in Northland.

There 65 people in hospital, including five in ICU.

The poll was conducted as an online survey including 1021 New Zealanders 18 years of age and over, with a sampling error of +/- 3.1 per cent.

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