Border worker vaccinations — an important step in New Zealand’s pandemic response

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.

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 12,000 border and MIQ workers over the next few weeks.

Once they’ve been vaccinated, we’ll start vaccinating their household contacts.
 
The finer details of the wider public rollout 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.  

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 batch of Pfizer/BioNTech arrived in New Zealand.
 
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 book. This remains a tricky virus and will require all our efforts for some time to come to manage.
 
Even though vaccinations have begun, it’s important everyone stays vigilant and sticks to the basics: washing hands, coughing and sneezing into the elbow, and wearing masks or face coverings on all public transport.
 
Continue to 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.

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.