New Zealand’s “Super Saturday” of Covid vaccinations has been a success, with over 2.5% of the population responding to the call for punctures in a single day.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern set an ambitious goal of administering 100,000 injections a day, with the aim of pushing vaccination rates toward her goal of 90%.
But New Zealanders flocked in even larger numbers. As of 7pm local time (0700 BST), healthcare workers had administered 127,342 doses of Pfizer on Saturday, with a higher per capita rate than any day of the launches in Australia, the UK, the US. Or Canada.
Chief Health Officer Ashley Bloomfield couldn’t hide his jubilation when vaccine rates surpassed the 100,000 mark. “It is already there and more to come. Let’s do it. Fantastic effort. To go whanau [family],” he said.
Ardern broke the news at 3 p.m., live during a special telethon, called a vaxathon, as part of the Super Saturday efforts. “Go big or go home,” he said, calling on New Zealanders to get closer to 150,000 hits.
“The team of 5 million has come forward in record numbers to protect whanau and their loved ones,” he added.
“Super Saturday has exceeded expectations and has ensured that as a country we are more protected from Covid-19.
“Maintaining this momentum over the next several weeks means that we could become one of the most vaccinated countries in the world, ensuring that we are protected from the virus and can get back to the things we love.”
The vaxathon summoned a who’s who of New Zealand talent. Film director Taika Waititi, singers Lorde and Marlon Williams, as well as the All Blacks of rugby and Silver Ferns of netball joined the eight-hour broadcast.
Ardern’s fiancé, Clarke Gayford, was on duty as a DJ, celebrating breaking the 100,000 barrier with a record.
The vaxathon crossed live to events across the country, including festivals for Tongans, Samoans, Maori and other populations. According to the Ministry of Health, around 5% of the Tongan community in New Zealand were vaccinated on Super Saturday.
Air New Zealand opened one of its Boeing 787s to allow a lucky few to get vaccinated in business class, before snacking on board while they await their observation period.
Others were given free KFC, pizza, or vouchers for rolling up their sleeves.
The effort leaves New Zealand with vaccination coverage of about 83% (of people 12 years and older).
Health officials reported 41 community cases on Saturday, up from 55, 71 and 65 in the past three days. All but one of the new cases occurred in Auckland, the center of the Delta outbreak that has led to 60 consecutive days of lockdown. The other case is in Waikato, and it is a domestic contact from a previous case and the person is already in quarantine.
The government predicted that this week the number of cases would reach about 140 a day by the end of the month.
Sewage samples revealed Covid in Beachlands and Pukekohe on the outskirts of Auckland, Wellsford in Northland and previously in Waikato’s Te Awamutu, suggesting that the outbreak is not yet under control.
There are 31 New Zealanders hospitalized with the virus and six in intensive care.