The first batch of COVID-19 vaccine has arrived in New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed today.
The shipment of around 60,000 doses arrived as airfreight at Auckland International Airport at 9.34am this. morning.
“The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine’s arrival allows us to start New Zealand’s largest-ever immunisation programme,” Ms Ardern said.
“Between now and when the vaccination programme starts, quality assurance, and checks by Medsafe and the pharmaceutical company will be undertaken.
“We expect to start vaccinating border and MIQ workers in Auckland this Saturday. The more than 30,000 courses will be more than enough to vaccinate this group of workers over the coming two to three weeks.”
The Prime Minister said border workforce such as cleaners, the nurses who undertake health checks in MIQ, security staff, customs and border officials, airline staff and hotel workers had worked tirelessly to keep all New Zealanders safe would be first to receive the vaccine.
“We know they’re most at-risk of coming into contact with the virus and that’s why we’re targeting them first, as it will also help prevent COVID-19 entering our communities,” Ms Ardern said.
COVID-19 Response Minister, Chris Hipkins said that since arriving this morning, the shipment has had further checks to confirm it has arrived safely and intact, and has been kept at the correct temperature during its flight here – it must be stored at -70 degrees Celsius.
“This has been completed and the vaccine has been formally transferred to our ownership and has been transferred to our new ultra-low temperature storage facility in Auckland,” Minister Hipkins said.
“We’re expecting further shipments of vaccine over coming weeks and will receive about 225,000 vaccine courses by the end of March.
“As these batches arrive, we’ll vaccinate border workers’ household contacts, then the next group will be many frontline healthcare and essential workers, plus those most at risk from COVID-19, such as older people or those with medical conditions that make them vulnerable if infected.
“This is another important step in the roll out of New Zealand’s vaccination programme and our efforts to keep New Zealanders safe from COVID.”