COVID-19 vaccine freezers arrive in Auckland

COVID-19 vaccines might be a few months away from landing here but on Thursday there was a special delivery that shows we are inching closer to getting the jab. 

Pfizer's vaccine needs to be kept in freezers colder than Antarctica and they've arrived ahead of schedule inside a container at Auckland's port. 

Head of communications at the Ports of Auckland Matt Ball says it's an exciting time, especially for those working at the ports. 

"We're all very excited. Everyone here at the ports is sick of having a stick stuck up their nose every week so it'll be great to get a vaccine onboard."

The Government bought nine freezers that can plunge to -80C. 

That's the extreme temperature needed to store 1.5 million doses of Pfizer's vaccine when it arrives on our shores. 

Despite delays with shipping freight, the Ports of Auckland found a gap to get this special cargo on land. 

"There was another ship that was late and we were able to shift this one up in the schedule and get it unloaded before Christmas," says Ball. 

From the port, the freezers will be taken and installed in Auckland in the New Year, with some destined for the South Island as well. 

The Ministry of Health is now working on a distribution plan to move the vaccine safely and effectively to clinics across New Zealand.

Vaccinologist Helen Petousis-Harris says the freezers are a world-first.

"In terms of vaccines, this is a first for the world to have something that requires such cold storage."

The Government has also signed agreements with three other companies to secure enough doses for the entire population. 

It's the country's largest immunisation rollout ever, and it'll begin in the second quarter of next year. 

"They're pretty much there. They've got a handle on it so there is a plan, now we've got freezers and soon we'll have a vaccine," says Petousis-Harris.