The first batch of Covid-19 vaccine arrived in New Zealand today (Monday), Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed.
The shipment of around 60,000 doses arrived as airfreight at Auckland International Airport at 9.34am.
“The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine’s arrival allows us to start New Zealand’s largest-ever immunisation programme,” Ardern remarked.
More checks before vaccination program starts
“Between now and when the vaccination programme starts, quality assurance and checks by Medsafe (the New Zealand Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority) and the pharmaceutical company will be undertaken.
“We expect to start vaccinating border and MIQ (Managed Isolation and Quarantine) 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 2-3 weeks.
Ardern said the country’s border workforce – such as cleaners, MIQ nurses, security staff, customs and border officials, airline staff and hotel workers – would be the first to receive the vaccine.
First doses destined for high-risk border workers
“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,” the Prime Minister stated.
New Zealand’s minister responsible for Covid response, Chris Hipkins, said that since arriving this morning, the shipment has had further checks to confirm it has been delivered safely and intact.
Among these are checks to confirm that it was kept at the correct temperature during the flight. To be effective, the vaccine must be stored at -70 degrees Celsius.
Taken to ultra-low temperature facility in Auckland
“This [process] has been completed and the vaccine has been formally transferred to our ownership and [taken] to our new ultra-low temperature storage facility in Auckland,” Hipkins said.
According to the minister, further shipments of the vaccine are due over the coming weeks and New Zealand 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.”