Today we start a new fortnightly column from new Whangārei MP Emily Henderson.
It is great news that a year since it all began the Covid19 vaccination campaign is now under way in New Zealand.
One silver lining of the recent short and sharp lockdown in Auckland is that I got to spend the week in Whangārei connecting with constituents and stakeholders, and I'm grateful to hear our Whangārei border workers (such as those working at Northport) will have the opportunity to get vaccinated in the coming weeks
I did some research on the eleven experts on the Medicines Assessment Advisory Committee who made recommendations to Medsafe, which then approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine as safe for us Kiwis.
They bring a broad range of skills from around New Zealand, such as biostatistics, infectious diseases, geriatrics, paediatrics, consumer interests, pharmaceutical chemistry and manufacturing, clinical pharmacology, toxicology, clinical genetics, rheumatology and psychiatry.
Though I'll leave medicines assessment to the experts, I can explain some related legislation passed in Parliament and the legal framework around vaccinations.
Last year the Government passed the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act to help us respond to the Covid crisis. This new legislation gives the Minister of Health the ability to issue the orders we're now all familiar with under different alert levels.
Recent improvements to our border defence include pre-departure testing requirements for all passengers to New Zealand. Plus, in future, it may be easier to enter New Zealand with proof of vaccination. However, vaccination will not be mandatory for the general public – you can choose whether to get vaccinated.
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These are important developments when looking ahead and imagining tourism post-Covid. We already know that our "100% Pure New Zealand" brand is trusted around the world as clean and green, and now we're considered safe from Covid as well.
Tourism will not return to "business as usual'" as it was in 2019, and the push for more sustainable tourism when borders reopen is gathering pace. We have the opportunity to relaunch our tourism sector as one that prioritises value over volume, thereby safeguarding options for future generations.
And while we talk about the vaccine, it's important to remember the most vulnerable in our communities who cannot receive it. People with compromised immune systems or severe allergies are among those relying us all to get vaccinated, to stop the spread of the virus and keep them safe.
I understand that some of you will be unsure about the Covid-19 vaccines headed our way. That's why health authorities will soon be launching a public information campaign to answer any questions you might have about the safety and effectiveness of these vaccines.
If you haven't been into our new office at 66a Bank St, I'll be firing up the barbecue at the Tikipunga Whānau Day from 12–2pm on March 27 at Whangārei Falls, so drop by for a sausage sizzle and say hello.