The Government is acting to ensure decisions on responding to the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic are informed by the best available scientific evidence and strategic public health advice.
New Zealand has worked towards an elimination strategy which has been successful in keeping our people safe and our economy in good shape.
One of our strengths has been our commitment to constantly learn and adapt.
The next phase of the pandemic poses significant challenges, including the emergence of new variants, but it also provides us with new opportunities.
As the COVID-19 vaccine programme ramps up in the second half of the year, the Government will face a number of decisions regarding our border and public health settings.
A strategic public health advisory group has been set up to provide independent advice and analysis to the Government, informed by their expertise in epidemiology, infectious diseases, public health, and modelling on these future decisions.
The Government will be seeking their advice on issues such as how much of our population needs to be vaccinated before we can relax our border settings, evidence for transmission blocking properties of the vaccine, strategic public health controls when the borders reopen and public health responses to any new variants that aren’t covered by our current vaccine options.
The Ministry of Health will support the Group’s work and share any information that would be useful to them. The Group will work alongside Sir Brian Roche’s COVID-19 Independent Continuous Review, Improvement and Advice Group, especially around health protections post vaccine.
The members will also have a public facing role. Once advice has been considered, they will need to communicate the science behind any changes to New Zealand’s border settings.
The Group will report to the Minister for COVID-19 Response, Chris Hipkins via Associate Minister of Health (Public Health) Dr Ayesha Verrall, who will be meeting the members regularly.
The Group is chaired by Professor Sir David Skegg, and is made up of the following members:
- Associate Professor Nikki Turner
- Prof Philip Hill
- Dr Maia Brewerton
- Prof David Murdoch
- Dr Ella Iosua
- Rodney Jones (Special Advisor)
- Shaun Hendy (Special Advisor)
- Observer: Dr Ian Town
Sir David is a highly respected epidemiologist and public health physician. He has served as a special adviser to Parliament’s Epidemic Response Committee during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sir David has also been an advisor to the World Health Organization in Geneva for more than three decades.
Dr Nikki Turner is a specialist in immunisation, primary healthcare and preventative child health. Professor Philip Hill is an epidemiologist with expertise in infectious diseases and research. Dr Maia Brewerton is the lead clinician at the Department of Clinical Immunology and Allergy at Auckland Hospital. Dr Ella Iosua is a biostatistical expert at the University of Otago. Professor David Murdoch is an infectious diseases expert and the Dean of the University of Otago, Christchurch.
Rodney Jones and Professor Shaun Hendy have been appointed as Special Advisors to the Group to assist with any modelling work that’s required.
Professor Hill is also a member of the COVID-19 Independent Continuous Review, Improvement and Advice Group. He will be instrumental in making sure the two groups complement each other and their priorities align.
The Group’s term runs until 1 June 2022.
Professor Sir David Skegg appointed as Chair of the Group
Sir David is an epidemiologist and public health physician. Sir David has been the Chair of the Preventive and Social Medicine at the University of Otago, Health Research Council, the Public Health Commission, and the Science Board and has been an advisor to the World Health Organisation in Geneva for more than three decades.
More recently, Sir David served as a special adviser to Parliament’s Epidemic Response Committee during the COVID-19 pandemic and has also been called as a witness by the equivalent select committee of the UK House of Commons.
Associate Professor Nikki Turner appointed as a member of the Group
Associate Professor Turner is an academic and General Practitioner, specialising in immunisation, primary healthcare and preventative child health. Associate Professor Turner is the Director of the Immunisation Advisory Centre (IMAC) and an Associate Professor in the Division of General Practice and Primary Health Care, University of Auckland.
Associate Professor Turner represents the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners in child health and is a health spokesperson for the Child Poverty Action Group. She is also a member of the World Health Organization Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization and Chair of the Measles and Rubella elimination subcommittee.
Dr Maia Brewerton appointed as a member of the Group
Dr Brewerton is a specialist in allergy, clinical immunology and immunopathology and is the lead clinician of the Department of Clinical Immunology and Allergy at Auckland Hospital. She also heads the immunology laboratory at Waitemata DHB. Maia teaches specialists in training at Auckland Hospital and trainee doctors at the Auckland University School of Medicine. She is the incoming Chairperson of the New Zealand Clinical Immunology and Allergy Group (NZCIAG).
Professor Philip Hill appointed as a member of the Group
Professor Hill is a medical practitioner and epidemiologist who brings expertise in public health and infectious diseases, research skills, and international health experience to the Group. Professor Hill holds qualifications in medicine as a specialist infectious disease physician, and holds a doctorate in the epidemiology of tuberculosis. Professor Hill also worked alongside Sir Brian as a member of both the Ministerial advisory committee assembled to oversee the implementation of the New Zealand COVID-19 Surveillance Plan and Testing Strategy and the Contact Tracing Assurance Committee.
Professor Hill worked as a clinical epidemiologist at the Medical Research Council in the United Kingdom, and has been a lead or co-investigator on various grants including with the European Commission, the Canadian Institute of Health Research, and the with New Zealand Health Research Council. Professor Hill now holds the position of Co-Director of the Centre for International Health at the University of Otago and holds the McAuley Chair in International Health.
Dr Ella Iosua appointed as a Member of the Group
Dr Ella Iosua is a Senior Research Fellow (Biostatistician) in the Biostatistics Centre at the University of Otago, providing expertise to Health Sciences researchers. Dr Iosua collaborates with and provides biostatistical advice to researchers from diverse academic disciplines with diverse levels of statistical literacy at optimally all stages of the research process, including research question articulation, study design, analysis, and inference.
Professor David Murdoch appointed as a member of the Group
Professor Murdoch is the Dean of the University of Otago, Christchurch. He is the co-leader of The Infection Group, the co-director of One Health Aotearoa, a Senior Associate in the Department of International Health at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, and a clinical microbiologist at Canterbury Health Laboratories. David’s main research interests are the epidemiology, diagnosis and prevention of respiratory tract infections, pneumococcal disease, legionellosis, bloodstream infections, and the role of vitamin D in infectious diseases.
Rodney Jones appointed as a Special Advisor to the Group
Rodney Jones is a Principal of Wigram Capital Advisors, an Asian-based macro advisory firm that provides economic analysis and advice to leading global investment funds on developments in Asia. Rodney has been working as an economist and analyst in Asia for the last 28 years. His focus in that time has on the interaction between banks, the financial system and real economies across Asia.
Prior to establishing Wigram Capital Advisors in Hong Kong in 2001, he was a Managing Director and Partner with Soros Fund Management, heading up the research office in Hong Kong from 1994–2000. During this time Rodney was responsible for providing macro analysis and advice on Japan, China and Non-Japan Asia for the Quantum group of funds. He is a graduate of the University of Auckland, New Zealand, with a MA (Hons) in Economics and a BCom.
Professor Shaun Hendy engaged as a Special Advisor to the Group
Professor Hendy is a physicist and professor in the Department of Physics and Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Auckland, as well as the Director of Te Pūnaha Matatini, a centre of research excellence in complex systems and data analytics. More recently, Dr Hendy supported the government’s response to COVID-19 by leading a team of scientist in the development of mathematical models.