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Border workers receive first Covid vaccinations

A woman who organises support for families at the Jet Park Hotel says she feels "privileged and honoured" to be the first border worker to receive the Covid-19 vaccine in New Zealand.

New Zealand's first 70 border workers have now been vaccinated for Covid-19 under strict infection prevention measures.

Jet Park Hotel worker Lynette Faiva was the first border worker to be vaccinated today.

She works in the hotel's family team, organising support for families.

Jet Park Hotel worker Lynette Faiva, who was the first border worker immunised Photo: RNZ / Simon Rogers

She said she felt "privileged and honoured" to receive the vaccine - and felt fine after having the shot in the arm which she described as "a tiny little prick".

Faiva said the vaccination was no big deal.

"For me it's not about being first, it's all about you know having this opportunity to be able to get vaccinated, so I think for me that was important, so you know we're in it together and we all got done at the same time, so I think we're just very fortunate to be able to have that done."

Watch a media conference with Dr Ashley Bloomfield and the vaccinated border workers here:

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said today's vaccinations were a "milestone that protects those at highest risk of getting the virus and helps to reduce the risk of it spreading into the community".

"Today's vaccinations reinforce the value of what we've all been doing for the past 12 months to keep Covid-19 at bay."

He said today was the start of the "largest immunisation programme in our history".

He said the vaccine roll out to MIQ and border workers will be staggered so that not all workers at each facility receive the jab on the same day.

People should expect mild symptoms after receiving the jab, he said.

The nurses vaccinating the border workers got their jabs yesterday but today is the first day of the government's roll out plan.

Vaccine jabs are being given to the country's border and managed isolation and quarantine workers, starting today and continuing for several weeks. They will need a second shot of the vaccine within 21 days.

The immunisation of 12,000 people begins in Auckland, then Wellington on Monday and Christchurch on Wednesday, before the rest of the country.

Dr Bloomfield said once they had been vaccinated, members of their household contacts would be next.

"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."

A group of the border workers who were first vaccinated and Dr Ashley Bloomfield (right) at a media briefing. Photo: RNZ / Simon Rogers

Immunisation Advisory Centre director Dr Nikki Turner said they are confident the vaccine is safe.

Dr Bloomfield said the research, good science and technology behind the vaccines was highly sophisticated.

"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."

He said while today was the start of a new chapter in the fight against the coronavirus, there was still a long way to go.

"We need to remember that this pandemic is the most significant global public health challenge in a century and managing it will require all our efforts for some time to come.

"So, even though vaccinations have begun, it's important everyone stays vigilant and sticks to the basics: staying home if unwell and getting advice about having a test, washing hands, coughing and sneezing into the elbow, and wearing masks or face coverings on all public transport.

"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."

Dr Ashley Bloomfield said people should expect mild symptoms after receiving the jab. Photo: RNZ / Simon Rogers

Yesterday 29 of the nurses who are giving the vaccines were immunised with their first dose.

Auckland University vaccinologist Helen Petousis-Harris said today is a key point in the pandemic fightback.

But she said that while it is a momentous day, the country still has some distance to travel before the pandemic is over.

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is administered. Photo: AFP

Associate Professor Angela Ballantyne from the University of Otago said rolling out a national Covid-19 immunisation program is a "major clinical, ethical and logistical challenge".

"This will be New Zealand's largest immunisation campaign. But New Zealand is in the lucky position of having no or minimal community spread of Covid-19 and therefore has been able to formulate a careful and robust sequencing and distribution plan."

Ballantyne said distribution needed to balance ethical values such as getting vaccines to the right people in the right order and pragmatic considerations, such as how to simplify and streamline delivery.

"So for example, we shouldn't be trying to identify high risk individuals because this is too burdensome and slow. Instead we need to identify high risk groups - for example, border workers, MIQ workers, front line health workers, or people over the age of 80."