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Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard

Question No. 7—Health

7. Dr SHANE RETI (National—Whangarei) to the Minister of Health: Does he stand by all his statements, policies, and actions around vaccination?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): Yes, in their full context In particular, I stand by my many comments encouraging people to get immunised, where clinically advised, and also my statement that further questions about vaccinations are best directed to the Associate Minister of Health Julie Anne Genter, who now holds the relevant delegation.

Dr Shane Reti: Was there a shortage of flu vaccines from mid-May to mid-June this year?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I don’t believe that I have made recent statements on that. I would advise the member to direct his questions better to the Associate Minister of Health Julie Anne Genter, who holds the relevant delegation.

SPEAKER: I let that question sort of slip, but it is important that there is a relationship between a supplementary question and a primary question or the answer, and I couldn’t see it, on reflection.

Dr Shane Reti: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can I just confirm: the written questions I have around the flu vaccine shortage from the Minister in his capacity before the delegation was passed across—so is it still appropriate to address the questions?

SPEAKER: Well, actually, technically no, because he no longer has responsibility. There was a discussion as to whether the question should be transferred to the Associate Minister, but it was my view, having been an Opposition member when similar changes had occurred, that it led to very convoluted answers where the Associate Minister was being asked to stand by comments of a Minister who was formerly responsible for it. It makes it very hard to ask useful supplementaries. My view is that where the Minister still holds the primary portfolio, notwithstanding the delegations, he should be held responsible for the statements he made in relation to that portfolio.

Dr Shane Reti: Thank you. During the flu vaccine shortage, was it official advice that members of the public under 64 and without medical conditions should not be prioritised for the flu vaccine; if so, why?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I was not expecting, necessarily, questions on the flu vaccine today. The member’s questions in recent times have focused on the meningococcal W vaccine—indeed, dozens of them to my office in recent weeks. What I would say to the member is that I’m very happy to answer those questions, or ensure that the relevant member does, if he wants to put them in writing.

Dr Shane Reti: Why were provisions not made for more vaccines sooner, when written questions in his name show that in November last year, Pharmac told the contracted supplier that they needed 1.3 million doses of flu vaccine for New Zealand but was told only 1 million could be delivered from that supplier?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: What I’m happy to tell the member is that there have been a record number of flu vaccines issued this year, and that is because the Government got a record number the year before. When they were approaching expiry—in terms of having all been used up, rather than approaching the date of termination—more were ordered and secured, and I want to congratulate all who were involved for being so responsive to ensure that we’ve had a record number of flu vaccines issued this year, and I want to thank and encourage New Zealanders who’ve taken them up. But, probably, more detailed questions on this into the future should be directed to the Associate Minister of Health Julie Anne Genter, who now holds the relevant delegation.

Dr Shane Reti: Why were previously free flu vaccines for all children under 18 in Kaikōura, Seddon, and Hurunui stopped in April this year?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I don’t have that detail in front of me. I suggest that the member puts those questions to the Associate Minister of Health Julie Anne Genter, who now holds the relevant delegation.

SPEAKER: Question No. 8—

Hon Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I apologise to my colleague. I’m just going to seek some guidance from you here which you might want to reflect on in the future. You’ve made rulings previously about the kinds of answers that are given to the very general “statements and actions” type of question. Have you any ability to deal with what happens to coverage of those questions when they perhaps are edited? Is that an issue that is in your area, and, if so, what is the method we would take that up with you by?

Hon Member: Well, we know what this is about.

SPEAKER: Right, well that was a loss of two supplementaries from the comments that were made then. No, I do not have responsibility for the use of material taken from the House. Filming from the House is a matter of review at the moment, and I do want to indicate that I was looking at some liberalisation in that area. From some recent feedback that I’ve had, I think it’s fair to say that it may be the trend—the wish of the House might be in the opposite direction.

MIL OSI