AUCKLAND, New Zealand – Since New Zealand closed its borders in March 2020, paving the way for one of the world’s most successful Covid-19 responses, the widebody jets that once carried its citizens to all corners most of the world have been redeployed for freight forwarding. And the vast majority of Kiwis have, throughout the pandemic, been as incapable of flight as their eponymous birds.
But on Saturday, some 300 residents of Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, boarded an Air New Zealand Boeing 787 again at the city’s international airport. This time it wasn’t about taking a trip, but getting a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the cabin of a business class seat. The doses were kept cool with dry ice on the carts which usually offer a choice of chicken or beef.
“It’s one of a kind,” said Johan Rickus, 30, stretching out his left arm for his second dose. After receiving the vaccine from a health worker, he was brought back to economy class by a uniformed member of the cabin crew to await his 15-minute post-vaccination period in a slightly less soft seat.
The event was one of dozens of pop-ups held across the country for “Super Saturday,” a one-day immunization effort hosted by the New Zealand Department of Health. The goal was to break the country’s record for the most doses delivered in 24 hours – previously 93,000. About 350,000 immunization slots were available, which could reach about 8.3% of the eligible population of the country. New Zealand. By 8 p.m., the country had already distributed nearly 130,000 doses, with more hours left.
During most of the pandemic, New Zealand successfully pursued a ‘zero-Covid’ strategy, with no community transmission of the coronavirus and few restrictions. But an outbreak of the Delta variant that began in August has proven difficult to reverse, prompting the virus to be contained rather than eliminated. Auckland has been stranded for more than eight weeks, while the rest of the country faces mask and physical distancing requirements for the first time in months.
Entering Saturday, 83% of the population aged 12 and over had received a first dose of the vaccine and 62% were fully immunized. Unlike its Australian neighbor, New Zealand has not set official vaccination targets for its reopening. Instead, the country is trying to get as close as possible to full vaccination.
“New Zealand has been a world leader in reducing the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths, as well as creating a strong economy and low unemployment,” said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at a press conference Tuesday. âI believe we can also be the world leaders in vaccines. “
Tens of thousands of people have been drawn to vaccination sites across New Zealand with promises of hot roast chicken, live music and random prizes. On television stations nationwide, a flotilla of local celebrities appeared on live programming of the âvaxathon,â including Los Angeles-based filmmaker Taika Waititi.
“Take the vax – I would love to come home, mostly selfishly,” Mr Waititi told fellow New Zealanders. âIf we can get that many people vaccinated, we can relax the border scenarios, and maybe we can have a little more flow in and out of the country at some point. “
In some communities, Super Saturday was an opportunity to connect with people who might be harder to reach. A pro-vaccination event titled ‘Protect Yourself and Your Whanau from Covid-19’, using the Maori word for family, was co-hosted by the University of Auckland and the Mongrel Mob, an organized street gang with links close with the Maori community.
Although they face additional risks from the coronavirus, New Zealand’s indigenous Maori population are around 30% less likely to have been vaccinated than the general population, according to data from the Department of Health.
Since April, Manurewa Marae, a Maori meeting house and community center in South Auckland, has worked to distribute more than 41,000 doses of the vaccine to some of the country’s most vulnerable people, many of whom are Maori.
What to know about Covid-19 booster injections
The FDA has cleared booster shots for a select group of people who received their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at least six months previously. This group includes: vaccinated people who are 65 years of age or older or living in long-term care facilities; adults who are at high risk for severe Covid-19 due to an underlying medical problem; healthcare workers and others whose jobs put them at risk. People with weakened immune systems may receive a third dose of Pfizer or Moderna four weeks after the second injection.
The CDC said the conditions that qualify a person for a booster shot include: hypertension and heart disease; diabetes or obesity; cancer or blood disorders; weakened immune system; chronic lung, kidney or liver disease; dementia and some disabilities. Pregnant women and current and former smokers are also eligible.
The FDA has cleared the boosters for workers whose work puts them at high risk of exposure to potentially infectious people. The CDC says this group includes: emergency medical workers; education workers; food and agricultural workers; manufacturing workers; correctional workers; workers in the US postal service; public transport workers; employees of grocery stores.
It is not recommended. For now, recipients of the Pfizer vaccine are advised to be vaccinated by Pfizer, and recipients of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson must wait until booster doses from these manufacturers are approved.
Yes. The CDC says the Covid vaccine can be given regardless of the timing of other vaccines, and many pharmacy websites allow people to schedule a flu shot along with a booster dose.
The jabs are administered in the wharenui, or meeting house, against intricately carved walls of red, black, and ocher, decorated with photos of loved ones. âYou also get that spiritual side of the marae,â said Hilda Peters, manager of the marae site. âYou feel it when you walk in, with all of our ancestors hanging on the wall. It’s a great experience.
On Super Saturday, marae leaders hoped to vaccinate 500 people, with incentives like a month of free electricity, a âsizzling sausageâ barbecue and boxes of packaged food to take home. After receiving their shots, people posed for photos under an arch of balloons and a sign that read “Shot!” A congratulatory New Zealand expression.
âIt’s all about voices of trust and building trusting relationships,â said Takutai Moana Kemp, CEO of Manurewa Marae. “If you come to the marae, you will have people who are like you, who have the same kind of values ââand beliefs, who understand what our people and our community are like,” she added.