The first members of New Zealand's border workforce have received their COVID-19 vaccines, a milestone that is being described as a "significant step forward" for Aotearoa's COVID-19 response.
Less than a week after doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine arrived in New Zealand, the first group of border workers have received their shots. It comes after 29 vaccinators on Friday became the first people in the country to be vaccinated.
"[Saturday's] vaccinations reinforce the value of what we've all been doing for the past 12 months to keep COVID-19 at bay," Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said.
"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."
Lynette Faiva, Drew Leafa and Lorna Masoe, who all work at the Jet Park Hotel managed quarantine facility, were three of the border workers given the shots on Saturday.
Faiva, the first to receive the jab, works within the hotel's family team, responsible for supporting families during their stay in isolation by organising games, educational activities and welfare support.
Leafa joined the team when it became a MIQ facility in early 2020, acting as the operations manager and responsible for day-to-day management.
Masoe has been at the hotel for 12 years and works in the reservations/admin team, organising operational, wellbeing and health requirements for returnees as well as scheduling all COVID-19 swab tests at the facility.
Over the coming weeks, 12,000 border workers from that hotel and beyond will be vaccinated. On Monday, the vaccine rollout will be extended to Wellington and Christchurch on Wednesday.
"Once they've been vaccinated, we'll start vaccinating the members of their household contacts. The finer details of the wider public roll out later in the year are being finalised and information on when and how people can get their vaccinations will be announced soon," Dr Bloomfield said.
He acknowledged everyone from the New Zealand Defence Force to nurses, ICT specialists and communication advisers for their work on the "huge logistical effort".
"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 doses of Pfizer/BioNTech arrived in New Zealand," Dr Bloomfield said.
"We should all be proud that in less than a year from our first confirmed case of COVID-19, we are ready to go with what I consider to be the biggest single logistical exercise our health system has ever tackled."
He said Saturday marks a "small but important step in a long journey". While vaccinations have begun, Dr Bloomfield said it is critical that everyone sticks to the basic health measures and follows the alert level guidelines.
"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," Dr Bloomfield said.
"But in the end, 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."