The country’s Covid-19 vaccine roll-out is officially underway, with many of the 100 vaccinators getting their first of two Pfizer jabs today.
The crew – mostly nurses – received their inoculation at Auckland’s Jet Park hotel, so they can vaccinate frontline border staff from tomorrow.
Some vaccinators may be sporting a slightly tingly arm tomorrow when they turn the tables and start vaccinating border workers.
Experts say the shot in the arm to protect against Covid-19 will feel similar to the flu jab.
“Some people will get fevers, some will get muscle aches and headaches those kinds of things which are unpleasant but very short-lived and able to be dealt with by simple medications,” said professor Peter McIntyre from the Immunisation Advisory Centre’s medical advisor.
But he said the benefits are tangible.
“On the one hand that’s not so pleasant on the other hand it’s telling you that your immune system is responding appropriately to the vaccine and your immune system is going to be ready should you encounter the actual virus in the future,” McIntyre said.
“That’s a whole lot better than wondering if you’re going to catch the virus tomorrow.”
Nurses Organisation professional nursing advisor Kate Weston said the vaccinators were ready to be first in line to receive their jabs today.
“It’s a very significant day for Aotearoa, marking the start of a programme. We are not dealing with a community outbreak so for us it’s a very proactive, strong place to be starting a vaccination programme from.”
The Ministry of Health had a trial run in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch this week to trouble-shoot and stress-test the immunisation programme.
From tomorrow, border workers will be vaccinated, starting in Auckland.
It’s expected to take several weeks before all 12,000 workers and their families are covered and they will need a second shot of the vaccine within 21 days.
The Vaccine Alliance is working alongside government on its Covid immunisation strategy.
Clinical director Dr Fran Priddy said it was an important step in Aotearoa’s defence against the pandemic.
“People can feel very confident that this vaccine is going to protect them against symptomatic Covid.”
Priddy said it will be important for the government and experts to encourage people to get the jab.
She said there is confidence the vaccine will work despite some unknowns.
“We don’t really have data yet on whether this vaccine or any of the Covid-19 vaccines can prevent spread of the virus but this will definitely have a high efficacy against preventing disease.”
Ministry planning scenarios show if there was a Covid-19 outbreak, the population at risk would be next in line to receive the vaccine after healthcare and border workers.
The vaccine is expected to be available to the general public in the second half of this year.