Covid 19 Delta outbreak: 85 new community cases in two days, child vaccines arrive

More than half a million doses of the Pfizer paediatric vaccine have arrived in New Zealand this weekend, the Ministry of Health has announced.

Children aged 5-11 will be eligible for their first dose of the vaccine from January 17.

The ministry also said 85 new community cases of Covid-19 were picked up over the past two days: 57 in Auckland, seven in Waikato, one in Taranaki, 16 in Bay of Plenty, two in Lakes and two in Wellington.

There are 31 people in hospital, including two in ICU. Of those hospitalised, one is in Northland, two are in Tauranga, and the rest are in Auckland’s hospitals. The average age of those in hospital is 58.

There were also 64 new cases identified at the border over the past two days. Most of those cases are expected to be the Omicron variant, but the Ministry of Health did not provide details.

So far, New Zealand has avoided community transmission of Omicron – but experts have warned the new, more transmissible variant could sneak out of MIQ any day now, giving rise to a fast-moving outbreak.

Last month the Government announced a suite of changes to strengthen the country’s border defences to keep Omicron out of the community for as long as possible while the booster shot programme rolled out.

On Wednesday the interval between a second shot and a booster dropped from six months to four. Close to half a million people have now had a booster shot: 21,821 booster doses on Saturday and 44,466 the day before have brought the total to 490,107.

Among eligible Māori, 88 per cent have had a first dose of the vaccine and 82 per cent have had their second, while Pacific peoples are at 94 per cent and 91 per cent.

Overall, 95 per cent of the eligible population have had their first dose and 92 per cent have had their second.

Today's cases

The Ministry of Health yesterday announced the two new Covid cases in Wellington that were officially recorded today. No new cases have arisen since then.

The two cases were linked to recent travel to the Bay of Plenty, and locations of interest have been released over the weekend – including a link to a Drum & Bass festival held in Tauranga.

Festivalgoers who attended the Netsky, Hybrid Minds, Montell2099, Friction, Holy Goof, Koven & more event at Wharepai Domain on January 3 from 2pm to midnight are now considered close contacts.

The Ministry of Health is advising them to self-isolate, test immediately and again on day 5.

Further isolation and testing requirements will be provided by public health, the ministry advised, and festivalgoers are urged to record their visit online or call Healthline so contact tracers can be informed.

In Waikato, three of today’s cases are in Te Kūiti and have all been linked to previous cases. Two cases are in Te Awamutu, one has a Taupō residential address (and is linked to a previous case), and in one case the location is under investigation. Three cases are currently unlinked.

All 16 new cases in Bay of Plenty have been linked to previously known cases. Thirteen of the cases are in Tauranga and three in the Western Bay of Plenty District.

Both Lakes cases are in Rotorua. One has been linked and one is still being investigated.

The Taranaki case, which is linked to the Eltham cluster, has been reported previously but added to today’s tally. They are a household contact of a previous case and have been isolating over the festive period. They are the only active case in Taranaki.

Supplies of 5-11 vaccine arrive

The Ministry of Health announced this afternoon that more than half a million doses of the Pfizer vaccine for 5- to 11-year-old children arrived in New Zealand this weekend.

Immunisation for these children starts on Monday January 17, and they will need two doses of the vaccine to be fully protected.

There are about 476,000 children aged 5-11, so the supply will be more than sufficient for them all to get their first dose.

The ministry recommends these are given at least eight weeks apart, but has said the interval can be safely shortened to a minimum of 21 days if needed.

A parent, caregiver or legal guardian will need to accompany the child to their immunisation appointment and provide consent for them to receive the vaccine, which will be free.

The supply had been due to land on Saturday (January 8) in time for rollout starting January 17, the Ministry of Health said earlier this week.

“The stock needs to go through a quality assurance process, and be thawed and repacked before distribution to vaccination sites,” it said.

“Deliveries are scheduled to commence from 10 January to ensure all sites nationally have child doses available in readiness for the 17 January start date.”

In late December, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins was asked why the 5-11 rollout could not come earlier than January 17.

He said the delay was partly because vaccinators needed to be trained to administer the paediatric vaccine.

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