‘Would you like Pfizer with that?’ New Zealanders could get Covid jab with fast-food fix

New Zealanders looking to get a fast-food fix could soon be asked if they would like a vaccine with their meal. The country is aiming to vaccinate at least 90% of its population and the government is now in talks with fast-food giant KFC to help reach that goal.

“We just want to reach out to where people are,” the deputy prime minister Grant Robertson told RNZ on Thursday morning.

New Zealanders love fast-food. It has one of the highest per-capita distribution of KFC and McDonald’s outlets in the world. When Auckland’s lockdown lifted on Tuesday night, people rushed to queue up for a meal, and just a day prior, two gang associates were caught trying to smuggle a boot-full of KFC and $100,000 in cash into Auckland, despite strict border controls.

“Given that under level 3, we know that a lot of Aucklanders are going to be really excited about getting their takeaway fix and could we use that possibility?” Roberston said.

Ensuring people wait for 20 minutes after their vaccine dose could be challenging if they are waiting in a drive-through for food too, Robertson said, adding that these types of logistics will need some work before the plan could go ahead.

He said the government is working through the options, including looking at other spots people frequently venture, not just fast-food joints.

An Auckland councillor, Jo Bartley, first suggested the idea to Restaurant Brands, which operates KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell in New Zealand, on Monday. She posted to social media on Wednesday that Restaurant Brands had informed her the government had reached out “to discuss the potential of this concept”.

The government is using “every tool in the toolbox” to get the population vaccinated, which it says will be the best chance for the country to get back to living a life free of lockdowns.

Last week, it started its “Mr Whippy-style” travelling vaccine bus roll-out.

Robertson was hesitant to offer incentives to get people out for a vaccine, saying that international examples have had mixed effects, and it raises ethical questions for those already vaccinated. But he said individual businesses have been offering sandwiches or coffees to encourage people to get their doses, which he supports.

New Zealand reported 23 new cases of coronavirus in the community on Wednesday, with all but one linked to existing cases in the current outbreak. It is a slight jump in cases, after the country reported 14 on Tuesday. There are now 1108 cases in the outbreak.

Auckland has reached a new milestone for vaccination, with 80% of the eligible population – 12 years and older – now vaccinated with at least one dose. For the nation, that figure is 72%, with just over 38% of the eligible population fully vaccinated.

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