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Does New Zealand Need Mandatory Vaccination? Covid-19 Expert Asks The Question

One of the world’s leading commentators on Covid-19, Dr Eric Topol, has raised a question: could mandatory vaccination prevent the Delta variant from ripping through New Zealand?

Dr Topol analyses the latest news and research for the likes of CNN, the New York Times, New York Magazine and the Guardian. He also publishes his own work. He’s a visiting professor to the University of Auckland, a digital medicine expert, and, in the US, the founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute and editor-in-chief of Medscape.

“Delta is going to be the only strain in the world pretty soon,” Dr Topol predicted in a talk to University staff and journalists by Zoom today, organised by the University’s National Institute for Health Innovation (NIHI). “That’s how fast it’s going.”

Lockdowns in Australia and a Groundhog Day-style resurgence of the virus in US states such as Florida and Louisiana contrast with a lengthy lull in Aotearoa. The scientist’s comments suggest just how vulnerable this country will be if Delta gets in.

Much lower vaccination rates could have contained earlier variants of Covid-19, but now close to 100 percent coverage of the population is needed, according to Dr Topol.

“Delta’s changed the whole calculation and I don’t think people have gotten that yet,” he said. “A place like New Zealand, which is naïve to Delta and basically to the coronavirus, if it (Delta) does get going there, it will go really fast, and lead to a vicious spread.”

Could New Zealand make vaccination mandatory to create an “immunity wall”? he asked.

Dr Topol’s talk ranged across US recklessness in dealing with Covid-19, communications challenges for scientists, the fantastic speed of the development of vaccines, vaccine booster shots, and the threats from ‘long Covid,’ where patients survive but major health problems linger.

“Right now, the US is the main breeding ground, the driver of the global Delta wave,” Topol said he was “ashamed” to admit.

“And we’re only a hair’s-breadth away from having an incursion here,” said the University’s Professor Chris Bullen, who moderated Topol’s talk, relaying questions from the audience.

One topic of particular interest to New Zealanders getting vaccinated: how long to wait between doses?

Eight to 12 weeks is better than three weeks for those taking the Pfizer vaccine, according to Topol. “The immune response is enhanced by waiting.”

He added: “Most immunologists would agree that if you space it longer it’s better – if you can. If you know that Delta’s coming to New Zealand next week, you just want to get everybody fully vaccinated, because one dose is not going to help much. If you have the luxury of time, then I’d go for the spacing – that’s the key.”

Here’s a recording of the talk: https://auckland.zoom.us/rec/share/lLArXV1E70AR6KAEcIcIVr_EwX2EkcGgqIgS9Jmt0CRnq6TYqEI9x5fmsqv73yrD.8n3BbSnJAlIfPv4R
NIHI’s home page: https://www.nihi.auckland.ac.nz/
 

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