New Zealand’s first batch of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is set to arrive next week subject to transportation plans and quality temperature control, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday.
“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,” Ardern told a press conference.
“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 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,” Xinhua news agency quoted the Prime Minister as saying.
She said the arrival of the first batch of doses is an important milestone in New Zealand’s fight against Covid-19, adding the country anticipates 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,” Ardern said.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said 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 Celsius.
“Systems and processes are in place for the first vaccinations to start once final checks have been completed,” Hipkins said, adding the vaccine must be independently tested for quality assurance on arrival, which is another important safety check.
The vaccine will be offered to border and managed isolation workers on February 20, with the first jabs administered to those working in the Auckland region, he said.
As of Friday, New Zealand’s registered coronavirus cases and deaths stood at 2,326 and 25, respectively.