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Vaccinations starting in Wellington today

News from Ministry of Health
Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says New Zealand has arrived at a key point in its pandemic response, with today’s first vaccinations of border workers.

“Today’s vaccinations reinforce the value of what we’ve all been doing for the past 12 months to keep COVID-19 at bay,” Dr Bloomfield said at a media conference in Auckland marking the vaccinations. “Vaccination of our hard working and dedicated border staff marks a significant step forward – a milestone that protects those at highest risk of getting the virus and helps to reduce the risk of it spreading into the community.

“Yesterday, 29 vaccinators in Auckland completed a week of preparations, by receiving the first COVID-19 vaccines.

“Today, we kick off the largest immunisation programme in our history, by vaccinating the first of our border workforce, a critical step in protecting everyone in Aotearoa. This is an important first step and we will be moving through these first few days and weeks in a measured way to make sure our systems and processes are solid.

“On Monday, we’ll roll out the programme in Wellington and then Christchurch on Wednesday, before starting to vaccinate the rest of New Zealand’s about 12,000 border and MIQ workers over the next few weeks.

“Once they’ve been vaccinated, we’ll start vaccinating the members of their household contacts.

“The finer details of the wider public roll out later in the year are being finalised and information on when and how people can get their vaccinations will be announced soon.

“People from across the health system and many other agencies have been and continue to be single-minded in ensuring that the vaccination programme will be a sustained success. In a rapidly changing environment, our system has had to be flexible in its response to delivering firstly on our elimination strategy and now on the vaccination programme. I sincerely thank everyone who has contributed.

“Today, I particularly want to acknowledge the support of the New Zealand Defence Force, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and the teams at their managed isolation facilities, the All of Government team, a range of private sector partners, our DHBs and the wider health system including the public health teams, our Māori and Pacific providers, the nurses, the doctors, the allied health professionals, administrators, ICT specialists, planners, communications advisors and leaders.

“It’s been a huge logistical effort getting to where we are today. And it’s been done while our health system has continued to deliver a wide range of care to New Zealanders and maintained a successful response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“Repeated trial runs of our processes and systems meant we have been able to deliver these first vaccinations less than a week after the first doses of Pfizer/BioNTech arrived in New Zealand.

“We should all be proud that in less than a year from our first confirmed case of COVID-19, we are ready to go with what I consider to be the biggest single logistical exercise our health system has ever tackled.

“Today represents a small but important step in a long journey. It’s the start of a new chapter but we still have a long way to go in the COVID-19 story. We need to remember that this pandemic is the most significant global public health challenge in a century and managing it will require all our efforts for some time to come.

“So, even though vaccinations have begun, it’s important everyone stays vigilant and sticks to the basics: staying home if unwell and getting advice about having a test, washing hands, coughing and sneezing into the elbow, and wearing masks or face coverings on all public transport.

“And please also keep up the good work and use the COVID Tracer app to keep track of where you’ve been, scan QR codes wherever you go and turn on Bluetooth tracing in the app dashboard.

“If the research, good science and technology behind these vaccines seems highly sophisticated — it is. We can have confidence in both the science and the processes that New Zealand has in place to ensure any vaccines we use are safe and effective,” Dr Bloomfield said. “But in the end, our success with this campaign will be achieved in the same way we have achieved success with our response – by acting collectively and in each others’ interests.”

News from Ministry of Health – February 19

A small group of vaccinators have given and received their first COVID-19 vaccinations this afternoon as part of final preparations before tomorrow’s rollout of New Zealand’s immunisation programme. Vaccinations will begin in Wellington on Monday.

“Our trial run at the Auckland quarantine facility today has confirmed our processes and systems are ready ahead of our first official day vaccinating border and MIQ workers tomorrow,” Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said.

“Today we’ve vaccinated 25 Auckland-based vaccinators who will start giving the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to border and MIQ staff from tomorrow. There were two teams involved in today’s trial run.

“This is the first time we’ve used this vaccine and it’s our first vaccine that needs ultra-low temperature storage, so it’s important we check and fine-tune our processes and give vaccinators an opportunity to handle the vaccine.

“It’s appropriate to protect our vaccinators who will play an important role in the coming weeks and months. These vaccinators will start administering vaccines to frontline border and MIQ workers from tomorrow.

“Earlier this week, we did a ‘dry run’, which focused on challenging immunisation teams in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch to practise responding to a number of scenarios that deviate from the usual vaccine process.

“We’ll start to vaccinate border and MIQ workers at the Auckland quarantine facility tomorrow, and have chosen to do it at their workplace to make it as easy as possible for them to get vaccinated.

“Next Monday we’ll roll out the programme in Wellington and Christchurch on Wednesday, before starting to vaccinate the rest of New Zealand’s about 12,000 border and MIQ workers over the next few weeks.

“Border and MIQ workers are most at-risk of coming into contact with the COVID-19 virus and that’s why we’re offering to vaccinate them first to better protect them. Once they’ve been vaccinated, we’ll start vaccinating their household contacts.

“We’re confident we’re ready for tomorrow’s rollout, which is a significant milestone in New Zealand’s fight against COVID-19.

“Rolling out our immunisation programme across Aotearoa will take a full year – we’re not in a race to be first, but we are committed to ensuring safe and timely access to COVID-19 vaccines for everyone in New Zealand,” Dr Bloomfield said.

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