New Zealand to Begin Vaccinating Border Workers This Month

New Zealand said delivery of its first Covid-19 vaccine next week will allow it to begin immunizing border workers from Feb. 20.

The first batch of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is now set to arrive ahead of schedule, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a news conference on Friday. The initial doses are “an important milestone in our fight against Covid-19” and the government anticipates further deliveries from Pfizer through the first quarter, she said.

“Our first priority is our border workers, who we expect to vaccinate within two to three weeks followed by their household contacts,” Ardern said. “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.”

New Zealand has been a stand-out performer in the battle against the virus, eliminating it from the community and largely preventing infected people from entering the country with strict border controls, including two weeks in managed isolation and rigorous testing. However, the border remains closed to foreigners, hurting the key tourism and education sectors.

Ardern said last month that the border could remain closed to the world for most of 2021 because it’s not certain that immunized people coming from abroad can’t spread the virus and it will take some time to get the entire local population vaccinated.

Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins said he expects 226,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to be delivered by the end of March. The vaccine requires two shots and must be stored at minus 70 degrees centigrade.

New Zealand has pre-purchase agreements for four different vaccines, more than enough for its five million people, but its success against the virus has meant it was not a priority country for deliveries. Neighboring Australia also expects to start its vaccination rollout later this month.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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