What Effect Will The Wellington COVID19 Episode Have On Potential Vaccine Uptake?

We will know more about the situation in Wellington soon. But I’ve been thinking: what might happen when vaccines become more widely available at the end of next month?

It’s clear that NZ is vulnerable right now

With variants circulating around the world and entry points into NZ, people maybe taking a more careful look at the risk it exposed them to right now with various travel bubbles remaining open.

One issue is that when cases are detected at a place of origin, people from that place may already be in NZ. And they may be infected.

Also: authorities in other places might have a different appetite for risk meaning that they may take slower or different actions than we would in NZ.

With a largely unvaccinated population, that’s a risk we are trying to manage. But with more infectious variants in this phase of the pandemic, the situation has changed from when Alert Levels and criteria were set (though they have evolved somewhat).

In the interim, there’s a good argument to consider whether we need more stringent advice about behaviour to keep ourselves safe while we are relatively vulnerable through low vaccination coverage.

It seems a fair trade-off: if the travel bubble is to remain open, then there needs to be a higher level of compliance with behavioural measures to prevent spread of the virus should there be an outbreak.

How we do this is a political decision

We can make it easy and remind people to mask-up, stay physically distant, and scan. But this seems to happen after a threat appears – which is not tight enough for the situation we find ourselves in.

As we go through this period of understanding the Wellington situation, we may find that people’s attitudes may shift. There will be people who were always going to take up the vaccine, and those who will not.

But this current episode may lead people to re-assess their position and decide to take up the vaccine for their own, and their loved ones’ protection.

We should be prepared for this increased desire to take up the offer of a vaccine.

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