Health Department officials and public health experts on how high vaccination rates affect the response to Covid-19.

As the country draws closer to reopening its internal borders, the government has made it clear that those who have been vaccinated will be given the greatest freedom of movement.

The Director General for Health, Dr. Ashley Bloomfield said today the reasons for this are the much lower transmission rates, serious consequences and the possibility of passing the virus on to someone else from those who were double-vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine.

The Department of Health’s own data showed that among a group of 10,000 people, 50 percent of whom were vaccinated and unvaccinated, 375 people in the vaccinated group would become symptomatic and only 13 would need hospital treatment, Bloomfield said.

Of those who were not vaccinated, 2500 would be symptomatic and 250 would require hospital treatment.

Bloomfield said the proportion of cases and vaccinated patients hospitalized would also increase as vaccination rates increased, but far less overall than if they were unvaccinated.

If 90 percent of those 10,000 people were fully vaccinated, there would be a total of 675 cases that would require 23 hospitalizations. Among the 1000 unvaccinated, there would be 500 cases and 50 hospital admissions.

Bloomfield said people who are fully vaccinated are also 32 times less likely to die from Covid-19 than those who are not, based on data from the UK.

Reduced portability

The Director of the Immunization Advisory Center, Professor Nikki Turner, said over 1 billion doses of the Pfizer vaccine had been given in 148 countries around the world. This meant that there was “extensive data” on its safety and effectiveness.

International studies showed that those who were fully vaccinated were also much less likely to pass the virus on to others who did not have immunity.

Turner referred to a recent Swedish study of more than 800,000 families that found that if a member of the household was vaccinated or recovered from the virus, the spread to household members without immunity was reduced by about 45 to 61 percent.

With two immuns it rose to about 75-86 percent, with three immuns to over 90 percent and with four immuns to over 97 percent.

While this study did not refer to the Delta variant, a recent Dutch study with Delta found that a vaccinated person who contracted Covid-19 was about 63 percent less likely to pass the disease on to the household .

In terms of side effects, Turner said, even with myocarditis, which can cause fatal reactions, people are four times more likely to get Covid-19 than the vaccine itself.

Bloomfield said that time last year, reaching 70 percent vaccination levels was considered the benchmark, but that was before Delta.

The 90 percent vaccination milestone was “higher than we had imagined,” said Bloomfield. But it wasn’t a goal, it was a milestone.

Bloomfield said that 90 percent of the age groups over 12 made up about 76 percent of the total population. He said rollout for the 5-11 age group would begin in the first quarter of next year, subject to MedSafe approval.

For the age group there is currently a “relatively small study, 2000 to 3000 children”, but New Zealand can see how it is being rolled out in the USA.

Stock problems

While the 90 percent of all DHBs have been included in the new Covid Protection Framework, Bloomfield said the framework also offers other levels of protection for vulnerable communities.

As of Monday, 81.1 percent of the eligible population – over the age of 11 – had been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, and over 90 percent had at least one dose.

Of the Māori population, only 61 percent are fully vaccinated and 77 percent received at least one dose.

When asked why the government is comfortable allowing people who might have Covid-19 to travel across the country when these huge inequalities persist, Bloomfield said the new framework would recognize them.

In preparing advice for travelers in the country, Bloomfield said they would consider vaccination rates, the vulnerability of local people and health resources.

Tamati Shepherd-Wipiiti, general manager of the Ministry of Equity on Vaccine Adoption, said while Māori rates have lagged, there has been a big surge in recent months since adoption opened up to younger ages.

Before Super Saturday, the Māori daily vaccinations averaged around 2,000 to 3,000, and since then it has been around 5,000 a day.

Māori and Pacific providers like Te Puea Winiata and Silau in the South Pacific worked closely to address the vaccine challenge, and many Pākehā preferred these health care providers as well, he said.

Bloomfield said with models showing an average of up to 200 cases per day by the end of the month, several thousand Māori could be infected by the end of the outbreak.

Shepherd-Wipiiti said there are many more door-to-door initiatives and partnerships between iwi, health care providers and DHBs.

“We worked with iwi, especially through our data sovereignty group, to help iwi access their own data.

Bloomfield said the data will be shared with the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency.

After discussions it has already taken place in Tāmaki Makaurau and Kirikiriroa as well as with the providers of the agency on site and with iwi in Waikato and would continue.

“It will be shared where the relevant discussions took place.”