COVID-19 vaccine: How Pfizer-BioNTech's coronavirus jab is 'a little different' from most vaccines

The national manager of the Immunisation Advisory Centre (IMAC) has revealed how the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is "a little bit different" from most vaccines.

New Zealand's first batch of the vaccine arrived in Auckland around 9:30am on Monday from Belgium on a Singapore Airlines aircraft.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that the vaccine rollout would begin on Saturday with border workers, but the first jabs will be administered to vaccinators on Friday.

"Today we are starting off vaccinating the vaccinators. They need to be vaccinated so they can then start tomorrow, on Saturday, to vaccinate first of all the staff who work in managed isolation and quarantine centres," IMAC's Loretta Roberts told The AM Show.

There are currently 60,000 doses being kept in secret locations around New Zealand, which couldn't be revealed for security reasons.

They are currently being held at -70C but Roberts said the vaccines would be thawed before being administered.

"It's frozen first of all, but then it is going to be transported frozen, arriving at a pharmaceutical fridge which is between 2C-8C so it will slowly thaw. If it was sitting in that fridge it would normally take two to three hours but if you took the vaccine out and popped it on the bench, you could use it in about 30 minutes. But it won't be cold when it goes in your arm."

However, Roberts said the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are "a little bit different" to most vaccines.

"Most of our vaccines come ready to go in a syringe with a needle on and then you just pop it in somebody's arm. But this vaccine comes as what we call a multi-dose vial vaccine," she said.

"It's frozen, then you thaw it and add sodium chloride. You dilute the vaccine and gently rotate it,  then you basically pop the needle into the vial and then you draw off your doses into a syringe. Then you put on a new needle, which we call a giving needle, which is used to put into the person's arm."

But she said they have a "very robust" vaccinator workforce who knows what to do, and assured the public that the vaccine is safe to take.

"This vaccine is safe, it has a very good safety profile. I think about 180 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been given. When vaccines are made there is very, very careful manufacturing requirements and again in New Zealand, we have Medsafe, which has done a robust check on all of the things that are required for the safety of the vaccine. So I think we can be very confident we have a vaccine with a good safety profile."

The vaccination of vaccinators is due to take place at the Auckland quarantine facility from 2pm.