'Shameful': Backlash over New Zealand cricket's early vaccine push

·Sports Editor
·4-min read
Jimmy Neesham, pictured here with Dr Ashley Bloomfield.
Jacinda Ardern's government are considering a push from New Zealand Cricket for early access to vaccinations. Image: Getty/Instagram

A push to have cricketers vaccinated before the majority of the general public has sparked controversy in New Zealand.

It has emerged that New Zealand's top doctor was given VIP treatment at the Black Caps' T20 clash with Australia on Sunday, where he was personally lobbied by the sport's top brass for early access to COVID-19 vaccinations.

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As the New Zealand government puts the final touches on its vaccination rollout plan, Ashley Bloomfield, the Director General of Health, enjoyed rare privileges from New Zealand Cricket (NZC).

NZC has expressed its desire to obtain vaccines sooner rather than later so players can fulfil overseas obligations in coming months, including the Indian Premier League and World Test Championship final.

As the Kiwis beat Australia by seven wickets in the fifth and deciding T20 on Sunday, Dr Bloomfield met cricket executives, including CEO David White, at Wellington's Sky Stadium.

He also mingled with players after their historic win, with star all-rounder Jimmy Neesham - one of the cricketers who would like a vaccine before his IPL season - posting a picture with Dr Bloomfield from the locker rooms on Instagram.

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The Ministry of Health said Dr Bloomfield gave a personal pledge that the matter would be considered by government.

"Dr Bloomfield attended the Black Caps game on Sunday 7 March in a private capacity and talked to NZ Cricket CEO David White while there. No formal discussions were held," a spokesman told AAP.

"Dr Bloomfield undertook to take the matter of players potentially being vaccinated prior to travel for consideration as part of planning for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

"No other commitments or decisions were made."

Deputy Prime Minister and Sport Minister Grant Robertson confirmed the government was considering the plight of athletes that need to compete overseas, which will soon include Olympic athletes in time for July's Games in Tokyo.

"The government is working its way through how we could do that. Not just for sportspeople either," he said

"We've got a sequencing framework that we're working our way through."

Ashley Bloomfield, pictured here speaking to the media during a post-cabinet press conference.
Ashley Bloomfield speaks to media during a post-cabinet press conference in Auckland. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

New Zealand cricket hoping for early vaccinations

NZC boss White previously said they've had negotiations with Jacinda Ardern's government to protect the Black Caps before they head overseas and attempt to become the inaugural World Test Champions.

"We've had very positive discussions," Mr White told AAP.

"The government has got a scheme for workers who travel overseas, there's a possibility to get vaccinated.

"So we've commenced discussions with the government about that."

The NZ government has yet to confirm or announce its full vaccination rollout plan.

On Monday, Ms Ardern announced her government had agreed a deal with Pfizer to provide 8.5 million additional doses of the vaccine - enough to vaccinate every New Zealander.

Ms Ardern said that deal paved the way for further details on a vaccination strategy on Wednesday.

The PM acknowledged the pressing issue of athletes competing overseas and whether they should be prioritised.

"In some cases it might be a requirement that they be vaccinated beforehand," she said.

"We haven't made decisions on how that will be dealt with. We know it's an issue.

NZC are desperately seeking to inoculate their stars, given their touring schedule in the next three months includes India and England.

Those two COVID hotspots are recording more new cases each day than NZ has experienced in total.

The Pfizer treatment requires 21 days between the two doses, and many Kiwi stars are due in India at the start of April for the IPL.

They won't return home before playing two Tests in England and the World Test Championship final in June.

Naturally, the push to get early vaccinations for cricketers sparked backlash in the general public.

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with AAP

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