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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern did not turn up to a planned New Zealand media event at a vaccination clinic in Whanganui today where a group of anti-vaccination protesters gathered.

Ardern was visiting a vaccination bus in the city and changed the time of the stand-up to just after 1.20pm at a new venue.

Around 200 anti-vaccination protesters made their presence felt at the mobile clinic on Victoria Avenue.

But this did not put off a few people from getting their shots or turning up hoping to catch a glimpse of Ardern.

In the stand-up, Ardern said she was not taking the protest personally and was not surprised by it.

Whanganui’s vaccination rates are below the national vaccination average.

In other developments today:

  • The Ministry of Health announced 100 new community covid-19 cases — 97 in Auckland and three in Waikato.
  • The government has purchased another 4.7 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for use in New Zealand over the next year, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins revealed while giving the latest details on the pandemic with Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield.

Second day in row
This was the second day in a row that an Ardern covid media briefing had been disrupted by protest over covid vaccination. Yesterday, heckling in Northland by an American pharmacist claiming to be a journalist forced the prime minister to change venues in the middle of the press conference.

“We are at a stage in the vaccine roll-out where we are trying to reach into communities that may hold firm views,” Ardern said today.

“But we need to have those conversations and, just talking to some of our health practitioners, their goal is to talk to everyone wherever they can to have those conversations about why it’s so important that people are vaccinated.”

On teachers who may be about to lose their jobs due to the government vaccination mandate, Ardern said: “We have not taken lightly the decision for some areas to require vaccination. It’s taken a lot of discussion and careful thought and we have focused in on those groups that we consider high risk.”

On whether mandates have destroyed social cohesion and forced some into corners, Ardern said although it may have had that effect with some, for others it had forced a conversation and made people ask questions.

“We had the experience of having already rolled this out for our border workers and what we noticed was by putting a date it did cause those who had questions to go and seek advice, talk to trusted health professionals and then make a decision.”

On her statement at the beginning of the pandemic that vaccinations would never be forced on anyone, yet mandates seemed to contradict that, Ardern said it was always her view that the government would not force all New Zealanders to be vaccinated and that view had not changed. They would not.

‘Duty of care to the vulnerable’
“This is about certain workforces and work places, where we’ve applied assessment on whether or not we have a duty of care to look after those most vulnerable.”

“We’ve guarded against requiring vaccines where we need to ensure that people are always, no matter what, they are able to access health services, food, government support.

“We have been very clear, we will not require nor will we ever require vaccine certificates to access food, government benefits, access services that people need to live.”

Vaccination efforts across the country are in fully swing as district health boards work towards 90 percent full vaccination rates.

Only five district health boards have hit the milestone for first jabs: Capital and Coast, Auckland, Waitematā, Canterbury, and, just yesterday, Southern DHB.

Counties Manukau District Health Board is on the home stretch to meeting the 90 percent first dose milestone, only 3951 injections away.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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