New Zealand hopes to vaccinate up to 350,000 people in a single day next week, the country’s largest Covid inoculation effort to date, as it draws closer to reopening its economy.
Vaccination clinics will be open all day Saturday, October 16, said Chris Hipkins, the minister responsible for New Zealand’s Covid-19 response. The facilities will be able to immunize 350,000 people, or about 8.3% of the eligible population aged 12 and over, he said.
“Like Election Day, we will be calling on all of our civic and political leaders to assist in our efforts to evict people,” Mr. Hipkins said.
New Zealand has had one of the most successful responses to the pandemic, recording just 28 deaths from the virus. And although it has been late to start its vaccination campaign, the country is now on track to fully vaccinate around 90 percent of its eligible population by the end of November.
New Zealand is the latest country to focus its intense immunization efforts on a single day. In August, Tunisia vaccinated more than 500,000 people in one day, and this month India said it administered 25 million vaccines in a single day to mark Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s birthday.
As of Wednesday, 50% of New Zealand’s eligible population had received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the only vaccine used by the country, while 80% had received a single dose.
New Zealand is also reducing the time between receiving a first and second dose from six to three weeks, a change that means “more people can be fully vaccinated sooner, increasing our community immunity.” a health ministry official said in a statement.
The country is currently administering around 17,000 first doses and around 46,000 second doses per day, according to the most recent data. Its rate of first doses of immunization has declined, down more than three-quarters from a peak of around 67,000 doses per day in August.
New Zealand has not set a vaccine target or a date on which to ease restrictions, although Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday the country would introduce a national vaccine certificate that would be required to enter “settings. high risk ‘like summer music festivals.