National | Covid-19 Testing

Dr Shane Reti volunteers to vaccinate

The only medical doctor in Parliament says the coronavirus is novel and the vector is novel but says the best reassurance he can give people worried about the vaccine is that, when it is offered, he intends to have it.

Not only that – National deputy leader Dr Shane Reti says, as he still has a practising certificate, “if they need some extra arms and legs I will be vaccinating.”

He says he has been looking at the vaccine in great detail and at the MedSafe protocol to be used. “I have some assurance that we will be as safe as we possibly can. So I will be encouraging [people to have it.]”

Reti is concerned, however, that the vaccine seems to be getting further and further away.

“We look to Australia, Singapore, the US and the UK and see them having thousands a week vaccinated making their way through well-developed programmes – and we’re making a start in April for our frontline workers and maybe July for the rest of the population.”

“We’ve now got Europe shutting down saying ‘No, we’ll retain the vaccines made here and make sure we get first preference because we’ve got skin [money] in the game.’ That was a problem because the Astra Zeneca vaccine was manufactured in Europe.”

Aussie vaccine?

However, National’s deputy leader says Australia has a manufacturing licensing relationship  so the vaccine could be manufactured there “and that might help us.”

“I’m just concerned this is pushing its arrival further and further away from us.”

He says the government really needs to look at those advance purchase agreements and hold the companies concerned to those agreements.

Reti calls for a tightening up of New Zealand’s borders as a consequence of the case that arrived in Northland last week.

He says it is essential that cohorts of people arriving at the same time staying at managed quarantine hotels must never mix with different cohorts. “It seems we still have mixing among flights.”

He says the government also needs to look at the smoking issue.

“We had a large number of positive case and three-quarters of them were smokers.”

Exercise in the room

The smokers came together in a communal smoking room and potentially transmitted coronavirus. Reti says the officials should give the smokers rooms with a balcony where they can smoke.

He agrees exercise is important for mental health but said it that meant taking people in quarantine in buses to sports fields to exercise, then the Australian rule should be used. “For the Australian Tennis Open the players practised on their balconies or in their rooms.”

He told Tapatahi that the possibility of a purpose-built quarantine centre had been discussed for a while, moving it out of the big cities, say to Ohakea Air Base and other places.

“As this problem starts to run through this year and longer, we need to rethink that conversation. It’s not the first time it has been raised as we start to look at the ventilation challenges. If we are going to conclude the North Auckland outbreak was ventilation-related, that’s going to mean we need to ask is it time to having that designated facility? Is it maybe just for people who have been in high-risk countries?”

He said 5000 beds might be needed in such a purpose-built facility.