New Zealand's frontline border workers will start to receive the first Covid-19 vaccinations next Saturday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has revealed.
From February 20, border and MIQ workers in Auckland will be offered the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.
Speaking to media in Auckland this morning, Ardern said it would take roughly two to three weeks for all 12,000 frontline workers to receive the jab.
After that rollout is complete, their family members will be offered the vaccination.
"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," Ardern said.
She added that it would take all year for the full vaccination programme to be rolled out in its entirety.
"This will be New Zealand's largest-ever vaccination campaign."
Today was the first time the Government has put any kind of timeline on the vaccine rollout.
That is because much of the logistics are up to Pfizer.
But Ardern said the February 20 starting point was ahead of previous expectations.
"Last year we indicated the vaccine would arrive in quarter two, and earlier this year we updated that to quarter one. It's pleasing to be receiving doses this early in quarter one," she said this morning.
"This is a really important milestone."
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said from next Saturday onwards, vaccines will be delivered to New Zealand in batches.
The first will be in the "low tens of thousands", but there will be close to a quarter of a million in New Zealand by the end of the first quarter.
Despite the updated timeline for frontline workers getting the jab, there are still no specific dates as to when the general rollout will begin.
Ardern said that was still planned for the second half of this year.
She said Pfizer was still managing the timetable, so getting specific dates for the second half of the rollout is difficult.
In the meantime, Medsafe was still in the process of approving other vaccines which could also be rolled out in New Zealand, and the Pacific.
New Zealand, Ardern said, will be responsible for much of the distribution of the vaccines in the Pacific Islands.
Ardern told reporters that she was not particularly worried about any healthcare workers refusing the vaccination, as she didn't think many – if any – workers would turn the vaccine down.
But if someone did, Ardern said they would not be fired. Rather, they would likely be transferred away from the frontlines.
She said the vaccine was a way to keep "yourself and your family members safe" and, because of this she was expecting a high uptake of the vaccine across the country, when it's rolled out.