WELLINGTON, Feb. 15 (Xinhua) -- The first batch of COVID-19 vaccines arrived in New Zealand on Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed.
The shipment of around 60,000 doses arrived at Auckland International Airport at 9:34 a.m. local time.
"The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine's arrival allows us to start New Zealand's largest-ever immunization program," Ardern told a press conference.
Between now and when the vaccination program starts, quality assurance, and checks will be undertaken, she said.
"We expect to start vaccinating border and MIQ (Managed Isolation and Quarantine) workers in Auckland this Saturday. The more than 30,000 courses will be more than enough to vaccinate this group of workers over the coming 2-3 weeks," she said.
"Our border workforce such as cleaners, the nurses who undertake health checks in MIQ, security staff, customs and border officials, airline staff and hotel workers have worked tirelessly to keep all New Zealanders safe and will rightly be first to receive the vaccine," said the prime minister, adding that it will also help prevent COVID-19 entering communities.
COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said New Zealand is expecting further shipments of vaccine over coming weeks and will receive about 225,000 vaccine courses by the end of March.
"As these batches arrive, we'll vaccinate border workers' household contacts, then the next group will be many frontline healthcare and essential workers, plus those most at risk from COVID-19, such as older people or those with medical conditions that make them vulnerable if infected," Hipkins said.