An upcoming technical change to vaccine coverage reporting will see 233,000 more New Zealanders added to the list of those eligible for their COVID-19 vaccinations, as part of continuous improvements to the vaccination programme.

The change will see Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand move to using updated health system user (HSU) data to report on vaccination coverage across the motu from next week.

The HSU population counts the number of people in New Zealand who have used health services over a 12-month period. Until now, 2020 data has been used to calculate vaccination rates, but from Monday 8 August, 2021 data will be used.

“Data like this is invaluable to help inform our planning and vaccination activities – such as where to direct mobile vaccination clinics, or to organise pop-up vaccinations and other events in areas where uptake may be low,” said Dr Nick Chamberlain, National Director of the Te Whatu Ora National Public Health Service.  

While moving to the 2021 HSU data would mean a technical decrease in reported vaccination rates overall due to the larger number of eligible New Zealanders being identified, Dr Chamberlain said it did not mean any fewer people were vaccinated. 

“Despite this technical change, the total number of people aged over 12 who’ve had at least two vaccinations has risen from 3.63 million at the beginning of December 2021, to 3.98 million as at 1 August 2022. And with thousands of people still being vaccinated every day, and more than 11.1 million vaccinations given to New Zealanders aged 5 and up so far, coverage remains very high.” 

New Zealand remains one of the world's most highly vaccinated countries for COVID-19, sitting in the top half of the group of OECD nations. Our international rating reported by Our World in Data (sourced from the United Nations World Population Prospects) will not change with the transition to HSU 2021.

“The added benefit of moving to the updated dataset is that it has helped us identify a large group of New Zealanders who have engaged with the health system over the past year – thanks in large part to the success of the largest vaccination programme in the nation’s history. This means we are better placed than ever to reach out to those people and ensure they are encouraged to be up to date with their vaccinations if they haven’t already done so,” Dr Chamberlain said.

“The updated data also complements our wider suite of vaccination initiatives, such as a $3.52m investment to increase the data capability of Māori providers – as well as on the ground activity, including the recent rollout of Te Whātoro, a set of mobile vaccination vans run by iwi health providers in Northland.” 

Dr Andrew Old, Deputy Director-General of the Public Health Agency for Manatū Hauora – Ministry of Health, said it was pleasing that continued use of the HSU had also been endorsed by Stats NZ, following a recent review being released today, along with recommendations for improvement.

“Manatū Hauora requested the Stats NZ peer review as part of our commitment to continuously improve the way we collect data to report on vaccination rates, and we welcome their recommendations. Aside from one recommendation that we are still working through with other agencies, every other recommendation has been accepted and we are actively working to implement them. This includes updating the HSU data every six months.

“The changes we’ve made, in collaboration with Stats NZ, will ensure the HSU can continue to be used for the vaccine programme into the future and applied to other health programmes where this would be useful,” Dr Old said. 


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