World Health Organisation expert Margaret Harris on how New Zealand’s COVID response compares globally



World Health Organisation expert Margaret Harris on how New Zealand’s COVID response compares globally

Vaccination rates, testing and mandates: what has New Zealand done well, and not so well, in comparison to the rest of the world.

World Health Organisation epidemiologist and community medicine specialist Dr Margaret Harris tells Newshub Nation on Saturday the country has managed a “very good” global response, particularly with testing, contact tracing and vaccination rates.

“But like every country facing particularly Omicron… It’s a challenge,” Dr Harris says.

She also says while vaccination rates are high for the whole population, there needs to be a focus on rates for the most vulnerable communities – which ideally should be at 100 percent.

New Zealand was late to prioritise Māori and Pasifika in the vaccine rollout and Dr Harris says it is critical that countries focus on indigenous communities, alongside other vulnerable groups.

She says countries need to not only figure out how they are going to get the vaccine to priority groups but also how to overcome some groups’ lack of trust in vaccines.

Misinformation or an ‘infodemic’ has been another difficult aspect to tackle, Dr Harris says.

“[Infodemic] has been almost as been as difficult to deal with than the actual epidemic created by the virus,” Dr Harris says.

“If people are given wrong information or are given information that leads to mistrust they don’t take the actions that really protect their health.”

She says for New Zealand to be prepared for the rest of the “raging pandemic” and any future pandemics, we need to trust science and not have politics interfere with the response, which she says has happened in some countries.

“If we could learn to use the science, use our hearts, work together, do the things that make sense we will be much better when the next one comes… And it will come.”

Watch the full interview above.


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