Workers at a managed isolation facility in Hamilton say they feel a sense of relief after receiving their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine on Friday.
The rollout of Waikato's vaccination programme began in earnest at the Distinction Hamilton hotel on Friday morning, with 79 staff vaccinated.
It follows 28 DHB vaccinators receiving their first of their two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in Hamilton on Thursday.
The general manager of the Distinction Hamilton in Hamilton, Carla Denmead, says the arrival of the vaccine was a significant moment for staff.
"I felt emotional when my injection was done. It's just a sense of relief and realising the opportunity we'd been given.
"It's a really big deal. Hopefully this is a game-changer right? It will help get our industries running again properly, open our borders and help keep people safe," she says.
Denmead says it also provided staff with some peace of mind on top of their normal safety measures while working in managed isolation. She was encouraged by the enthusiasm of staff who were keen to get the vaccine.
The Distinction Hotel and the Ibis in Hamilton are isolation centres as well as the Jet Park hotel at Hamilton Airport.
For senior chef Aaron Sigley, his first dose means he's a step closer to seeing members of his family again. He says there are some in his family, who also live in Hamilton, that he hasn't seen since May last year.
"I'm very relieved at having had the vaccine. I have family I haven't seen since I began working here because they've felt concerned because they may be vulnerable so I've stayed away from them.
"By having this jab, I feel and they feel I'll be able to see them again and I'm looking forward to that."
Wheeti Maipi has been working at managed isolation facilities as a mental health advisor for the past nine months.
He says getting the vaccine provided him with an extra sense of security, particularly when he returns home every night.
"That was my main motivator, to protect the rest of my whānau and I'm going to let the all know I've had my first shot. I'm looking forward to when they can become part of the rollout too."
Charge nurse manager Lisa Maxwell was also among those to be vaccinated on Friday.
She was elated the programme has begun and says border workers are excited they and their household contacts have been given first priority for the vaccine.
The first stage of the vaccine rollout includes border workers and the managed isolation and quarantine workforce, and their household contacts.
"None of our infection control practices will change, but the workers just have that knowledge they have that extra layer of protection should the worst case scenario occur," Maxwell says.
Ikimoke Tamaki-Takarei manages cultural intervention for the region's managed isolation facilities and also received his first dose on Thursday.
He says it's critical for border workers to be the first line of protection for the communities and vulnerable populations.
"As part of border control for Covid-19, it's our responsibility to keep our families safe.
We go home to our families every night. I return home to my new mokopuna, so it's my responsibility to keep her safe, to keep my children safe, and my immediate family safe.
"A lot of our vulnerable whānau and our kaumatua suffer from some sort of respiratory illness, so we have to be able to protect them by getting a vaccine."
Household contacts of managed isolation workers will receive their immunisations by appointment at the dedicated vaccination centre in Hamilton.