COVID-19: Thousands being recruited, trained to manage NZ's vaccine rollout

A Kiwi vaccinologist says she is confident that New Zealand health authorities are well prepared for handling the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

Vaccines are currently being administered around the world in their thousands but New Zealand is yet to get its first.

On February 3, the Government announced the Pfizer vaccine was provisionally approved by drug regulator Medsafe with the first shipment set to arrive in the next few months.

Border workers and their families will get it first followed by the elderly and the vulnerable. Everyone else will have to wait until the second half of 2021.

To keep up with the rollout and anticipated demand, the Government is currently hiring an extra 2000 to 3000 full-time workers to administer the vaccines.

University of Auckland vaccinologist Helen Petousis-Harris said the recruitment and training for the positions are well underway.

Some people are coming out of retirement to train for it and others are looking to widen their knowledge. 

"Expanding their work for just a little bit further can give them basic training and increase their skills," she said.

Petousis-Harris told Newshub she believes New Zealand is well equipped to handle the rollout in the coming months.

The initial call for expressions of interest for vaccinators went out in the middle of January, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said.

"So far, more than 1800 people have registered their interest in being involved. In addition, more than 2000 people have been trained as provisional vaccinators, ready to complete the COVID-19 vaccine training once available."

Petousis-Harris said they are still recruiting more people to keep up with demand.

"The plans are already being executed to recruit more people and also the training of those people."

Helen Petousis-Harris.
Helen Petousis-Harris. Photo credit: The AM Show

The Immunisation Advisory Centre is currently in charge of training and they are beginning with the vaccinators who will deliver the Pfizer vaccine.

Then they will train additional vaccinations which will be sourced from: 

Non-practicing nurses, doctors, or pharmacists

Final year medical, nursing and pharmacy students (with clinical oversight)

And other health professionals who have vaccinations within their scope of practice (including dentists and physiotherapists)

The training can be completed face-to-face and online around New Zealand.

Healthcare professionals interested in helping with the rollout can register their interests on the COVID-19 Surge Workforce database.