Covid 19 coronavirus: Is the vaccine really free?

While authorities hammer out details of the Covid-19 vaccination campaign, general practitioners expect the jabs will be free, unless a consultation is required.

Consults are usually not necessary for a vaccination so most people will be getting it done by a nurse, says Dr Bryan Betty, medical director at the New Zealand Royal College of General Practitioners.

He expects nurses’ time and equipment to be covered by the Government.

“The understanding is there will be no cost barriers to getting vaccinations done, and this would be the expectation of GPs across the country,” he told the Herald.

Vaccinations for the general public are scheduled to start in the second half of 2021, in what’s been called the largest full-scale vaccination campaign in New Zealand’s history.

The Government has announced Covid-19 vaccinations will be free and voluntary for everyone in the country regardless of visa status.

“We have purchased enough vaccines to cover all New Zealanders and to do so for free,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday.

Border and managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) workers will be the first to be vaccinated starting this Saturday in Auckland, followed by their household contacts.

They include cleaners, nurses who do MIQ health checks, security staff, customs and border officials, airline staff and hotel workers.

The second group of people to receive the vaccine are health care and essential workers in the second quarter of the year.

In response to Herald queries, the Ministry of Health says DHBs are leading this initial roll-out, but general practices will play a key part in the general public phase.

Funding arrangements will be worked out closer to the date and GPs will be “resourced to do this (vaccination) in a safe and timely way”, said a spokesman.

Whether consultations costs will be funded has not been discussed at this point, says Betty, but the majority of vaccinations should be single visits without consultation.

“In terms of an immunisation roll-out I don’t think that [consultations] would be part of the funding, because that would be the patient’s decision when presenting for a vaccination,” said Betty.

The country’s first batch of Covid-19 vaccines arrived on Monday.

Manufactured by Pfizer and BioNTech, it is approved for use in New Zealand for people 16 years and older. Under-16s are not included for now as they were not part of clinical trials.

New Zealand has purchase agreements for three other Covid-19 vaccines, made by Janssen, Noravax and AstraZeneca.

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