A significant COVID-19 workforce milestone has been reached, with the 5,000th vaccinator completing specialised training to administer the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine, COVID-19 Response Minister, Chris Hipkins said today.
“A huge amount of work has been going on behind the scenes to boost numbers of trained vaccinators and this is a milestone worth celebrating,” Mr Hipkins said.
“This specialised online training has been vitally important in ensuring we have sufficient workforce ready as we continue to ramp-up our COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
“The Immunisation Advisory Centre (IMAC) started running the training for the Pfizer vaccine in February and as of this week, we’ve had 5,358 vaccinators who’ve completed the programme.
“So far, almost 2,000 vaccinators have been involved in actively immunising people since the COVID-19 vaccine rollout started nearly three months ago.
“Our dedicated vaccinators – nurses, doctors, pharmacists and those in other approved vaccinating professions – are working extremely hard to protect New Zealanders against this virus as our rollout expands into Group 3, and I want to thank them for their vital contribution.
“It’s important to remember that the most significant roll-out won’t begin until July when we start vaccinating the general public so we’re preparing our vaccination workforce with that timeline in mind.”
The Minister said that current modelling indicated that New Zealand will need around 1,600 full-time equivalent vaccinators when the vaccination rollout peaks later this year.
“Not all of the people trained so far will be available to work full-time, so additional initiatives are also underway to further boost our pool of vaccinators,” he said.
“Last week for instance, the Ministry of Health kicked off consultation with the health and disability sector about change to the Medicines Regulations to allow a range of people across the country to work as supplementary COVID-19 vaccinators.
“As part of this change, we would target people with health and disability sector experience, such as kaiāwhina, internationally-trained healthcare professionals who are not currently registered in New Zealand and New Zealand-trained healthcare professionals with lapsed annual practising certificates. This new workforce would undergo specialist training first and their work would be fully supervised.”
He said the change would also enable the government to increase the numbers of Māori and Pacific – who are currently under-represented – in its vaccinator workforce.
“We’re also improving the Ministry of Health COVID-19 Surge Workforce database to better support the next phase of the scale-up. Since the database was launched in early last year, there have been many thousands of people register their interest in supporting the programme across various roles, including as vaccinators.”
“This is New Zealand’s largest-ever vaccination rollout and today’s milestone is great news as part of our ongoing commitment to deliver vaccines to New Zealanders. I look forward to seeing our trained workforce continue to expand,” Mr Hipkins said.