In one of the few master classes of investigative journalism done for some time, Kate McNamara has dug up the truth behind NZ's late order of the Pfizer vaccine in today's Herald. Back in June we argued at DownToEarth Kiwi that the reason behind our bottom-of-the-OECD vaccination rate was the late order. Our claim was repeated in the media by folks like former Minister Richard Prebble and others. The government went into media spin and PR overdrive to discredit those claims. Specifically, on 24 June we stated:
"As a result, the Ministry of Health should have ordered 5 million vaccine courses from Pfizer as early as possible, as well as this same number from each of the other suppliers, even if the government ended up binning some of its choices. The decision to "make Pfizer our primary vaccine provider", as stated by the Ministry, shouldn't have been made in January 2021 on the ex-post medical grounds they describe. Ex-ante, 5 million courses of all available vaccines should have been ordered - the cost being so small relative to potential benefits that even if those benefits didn't materialize in the case of some purchases - it didn't matter.
Yet Hipkins told Jack Tame on Q&A "the only way we could've increased the volume of vaccines that we've been administering earlier would've been to have used other vaccines in addition to Pfizer. He later added, "Look, we have been in regular conversation with Pfizer since February or January  when we made the decision to go all in with that, to see whether there's anything that we can do to get bigger deliveries, faster. So that's been an ongoing conversation, ultimately, we've moved as quickly as possible, we've used every lever that we've had available to us."
Turns out this is not the full story. After months of digging, McNamara uncovered the whole truth. She writes, "Hipkins has been careful to reference only efforts his Government made to secure vaccines in 2021. Starting in May, and picking up pace in June, July & August , dozens of countries inked advance purchase agreements with pharmaceutical companies with promising plans: Pfizer, AstraZenica, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna & others. Pfizer signed such deals with countries large & small: the US, Britain, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Israel & Canada to name a few".
Back then NZ had no provision for the advance purchase of any international medicine at all. Yes, our government stuffed it up big time. It moved too slow due to sluggish administrative, regulatory & bureaucratic processes in Wellington. That's why we're all locked down today. It was a multi-billion dollar mistake - and counting.