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‘Would you like Pfizer with that?’ New Zealanders could get Covid jab with fast-food fix

·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Phil Walter/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Phil Walter/Getty Images

New Zealanders looking to get a fast-food fix could soon be asked if they would like a vaccine with their meal. The country is aiming to vaccinate at least 90% of its population and the government is now in talks with fast-food giant KFC to help reach that goal.

“We just want to reach out to where people are,” the deputy prime minister Grant Robertson told RNZ on Thursday morning.

New Zealanders love fast-food. It has one of the highest per-capita distribution of KFC and McDonald’s outlets in the world. When Auckland’s lockdown lifted on Tuesday night, people rushed to queue up for a meal, and just a day prior, two gang associates were caught trying to smuggle a boot-full of KFC and $100,000 in cash into Auckland, despite strict border controls.

Watch: Coronavirus vaccine rollout reaches 12 to 15-year-olds

“Given that under level 3, we know that a lot of Aucklanders are going to be really excited about getting their takeaway fix and could we use that possibility?” Roberston said.

 Related: Taste of freedom: Auckland residents rush to fast-food joints as Covid restrictions ease 

Ensuring people wait for 20 minutes after their vaccine dose could be challenging if they are waiting in a drive-through for food too, Robertson said, adding that these types of logistics will need some work before the plan could go ahead.

He said the government is working through the options, including looking at other spots people frequently venture, not just fast-food joints.

An Auckland councillor, Jo Bartley, first suggested the idea to Restaurant Brands, which operates KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell in New Zealand, on Monday. She posted to social media on Wednesday that Restaurant Brands had informed her the government had reached out “to discuss the potential of this concept”.

The government is using “every tool in the toolbox” to get the population vaccinated, which it says will be the best chance for the country to get back to living a life free of lockdowns.

Last week, it started its “Mr Whippy-style” travelling vaccine bus roll-out.

Robertson was hesitant to offer incentives to get people out for a vaccine, saying that international examples have had mixed effects, and it raises ethical questions for those already vaccinated. But he said individual businesses have been offering sandwiches or coffees to encourage people to get their doses, which he supports.

On Thursday, prime minister Jacinda Ardern said in the past 18 months, New Zealand has had some of the lowest hospitalisation and death rates in the world and more days without restrictions than almost any other country.

Watch: J&J says second shot boosts protection

Ardern urged the country to lead the way in vaccination rates.

“There is now an opportunity for us all to grasp to be one of the most vaccinated countries in the world … it comes down to each and every one of us. We have the supply of vaccines we need; we have the workforce ready to do the job,” she said.

 So far, 72% of the eligible population in New Zealand has been vaccinated with one dose. Just over 38% of the eligible population has been fully vaccinated.

Modelling from research centre Te Pūnaha Matatini shows that reaching 90% vaccination and higher, alongside mask-wearing, contact tracing and rapid testing, is the only way to minimise ongoing strict lockdowns. It shows that if just 80% of the population is vaccinated, a community outbreak of the virus could still lead to 7,000 deaths and 60,000 hospitalisations.

New Zealand reported 15 new cases of coronavirus in the community on Thursday, with three yet to be linked to existing cases in the current outbreak. There are now 1123 cases in the outbreak, and 861 of those have now recovered. Fifteen people are in hospital and 3 are in intensive care.

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