COVID-19 vaccine to arrive earlier than expected

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo: Daniel Hines/SunLive.

The first batch of Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is set to arrive in New Zealand next week, subject to transportation plans and quality temperature control.

"We have been working behind the scenes to secure the timely arrival of vaccines for our border workers and their families and it’s great they will arrive well within our scheduled timeframes,” says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

"Government representatives have been in conversations with Pfizer on a constant basis for the last few weeks. We appreciate the effort the company has gone to to deliver the first instalment earlier than originally anticipated.

“Last year we indicated the vaccine would arrive in quarter two, and earlier this year we updated that to quarter one. It’s pleasing to be receiving doses this early in quarter one.

“The arrival of our first batch of doses is an important milestone in our fight against COVID-19. We now anticipate further deliveries through quarter one from Pfizer.

“Our first priority is our border workers, who we expect to vaccinate within two to three weeks followed by their household contacts. Health care and essential workers and those most at risk from COVID-19 will follow in quarter two, before vaccination of the wider population in the second half of the year."

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says the first vaccinations to border workers were on track to be administered in the same week as the vaccine’s arrival in New Zealand.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine requires two doses and must be stored at -70 degrees centigrade.

“Systems and processes are in place for the first vaccinations to start once final checks have been completed,” says Hipkins.

“On arrival, the vaccine must be independently tested for quality assurance, which is another important safety check. The doses will then be formally released to start the first phase of the vaccination programme.

“At this stage, we are expecting to start offering the vaccine to our border and MIQ workers on February 20, with the first immunisations given out to those working in the Auckland region."

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