2021-10-16 09:37:11 New Zealand Attempts a Record-Setting ‘Vaxathon’

New Zealand Attempts a Record-Setting ‘Vaxathon’

NEW ZEALAND, AUCKLAND — Since New Zealand closed its borders in March 2020, paving the way for one of the world’s most successful Covid-19 responses, the wide-body jets that once transported its citizens to every corner of the globe have mostly been redeployed for freight transport. Throughout the pandemic, the vast majority of Kiwis have been as flightless as their eponymous birds.

On Saturday, however, approximately 300 Auckland residents boarded an Air New Zealand Boeing 787 jet at the city’s international airport. It was not a trip this time, but rather a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the booth of a business-class seat. On the trolleys, which typically offer a choice of chicken or beef, the doses were kept cool with dry ice.

“It’s one-of-a-kind,” Johan Rickus, 30, said as he extended his left arm for his second dose. After receiving the vaccine from a medical professional, he was escorted back to economy class by a uniformed member of the cabin crew to complete his 15-minute post-vaccination period in a slightly less comfortable seat.

The pop-up was one of dozens held across the country for “Super Saturday,” a one-day vaccination campaign organized by New Zealand’s Ministry of Health. The goal was to break the country’s previous record of 93,000 doses delivered in 24 hours. There were approximately 350,000 vaccination slots available, which could reach approximately 8.3 percent of New Zealand’s eligible population. With hours to go, the country had already distributed nearly 120,000 doses by 4:30 p.m.

New Zealand successfully pursued a “zero-Covid” strategy for the majority of the pandemic, with no community transmission of the coronavirus and few restrictions. However, an outbreak of the Delta variant that began in August has proven difficult to contain, prompting a move to contain the virus rather than eliminate it. Auckland has been under lockdown for more than eight weeks, while the rest of the country has been subjected to mask and physical separation requirements for the first time in months.

By Saturday, 83 percent of people aged 12 and up had received a first dose of the vaccine, and 62 percent had been fully vaccinated. New Zealand, unlike its neighbor Australia, has not set official vaccination targets for its reopening. Instead, the country is attempting to achieve the highest level of immunization possible.

“New Zealand has been world-leading in terms of reducing our case numbers, hospitalizations, and deaths, while also delivering a strong economy and low unemployment,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a news conference on Tuesday. “I believe we can also be world leaders in vaccines.”

Promises of hot rotisserie chicken, live music, and random prizes drew tens of thousands of people to vaccination sites across New Zealand. A flotilla of local celebrities appeared on live “vaxathon” programming on the country’s television channels, including filmmaker Taika Waititi, who called in from Los Angeles.

“Get the vax — I’d like to come home, primarily for selfish reasons,” Mr. Waititi told his fellow New Zealanders. “If we can get as many people vaccinated as possible, we can ease up on border scenarios and possibly have a bit more of a flow in and out of the country at some point.”

In some communities, Super Saturday provided an opportunity to connect with people who might otherwise be difficult to reach. The University of Auckland and the Mongrel Mob, an organized street gang with close ties to the Maori community, co-hosted a pro-vaccination event called “Protecting You and Your Whanau From Covid-19.”

Despite the fact that they face additional risks from the coronavirus, the Indigenous Maori population in New Zealand is about 30% less likely to have been vaccinated than the general population, according to Ministry of Health data.

Manurewa Marae, a Maori meeting house and community center in South Auckland, has worked since April to deliver over 41,000 doses of a vaccine to some of the country’s most vulnerable people, many of whom are Maori.

What Is the Deal With Covid-19 Booster Shots?

Who qualifies for a booster shot?

The Food and Drug Administration approved booster shots for a small group of people who had received their second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at least six months before. This group includes vaccine recipients who are 65 or older or who live in long-term care facilities; adults who are at high risk of severe Covid-19 due to an underlying medical condition; and health care workers and others whose jobs put them at risk. People with compromised immune systems are eligible for a third dose of Pfizer or Moderna four weeks after the first.

People who have received Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines will be eligible.

What are the underlying medical conditions that necessitate a booster shot?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the following conditions qualify a person for a booster shot: hypertension and heart disease; diabetes or obesity; cancer or blood disorders; weakened immune system; chronic lung, kidney, or liver disease; dementia and certain disabilities. Pregnant women, as well as current and former smokers, are eligible.

What types of jobs are eligible for boosters?

The Food and Drug Administration approved boosters for workers whose jobs expose them to potentially infectious people. According to the C.D.C., this group includes emergency medical workers, educators, food and agriculture workers, manufacturing workers, corrections workers, US Postal Service workers, public transportation workers, and grocery store workers.

Is it okay to mix Covid vaccines?

It is not advised. For the time being, Pfizer vaccine recipients should get a booster shot from Pfizer, while Moderna and Johnson & Johnson recipients should wait until booster doses from those manufacturers are approved.

Can I get a flu shot and a Covid vaccine or booster shot at the same time?

Yes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the Covid vaccine can be given without regard for the timing of other vaccines, and many pharmacies are allowing people to get a flu shot and a booster dose at the same time.

Jabs are given in the wharenui, or meeting house, which has intricately carved walls of red, black, and ocher that are adorned with pictures of loved ones. “The marae gives you that spiritual side as well,” said Hilda Peters, the marae’s site manager. “You can feel it when you walk in there, with all of our ancestors up on the wall.” It’s a lovely experience.”

The marae leadership hoped to vaccinate 500 people on Super Saturday, offering incentives such as one month of free electricity, a “sausage sizzle” barbecue, and packaged boxes of food to take home. People posed for photos after getting their shots under a balloon archway and a sign that said “Shot!”, a New Zealand expression of congratulations.

“It’s all about trusted voices and building trusting relationships,” Takutai Moana Kemp, chief executive officer of Manurewa Marae, said as people posed for photos after receiving their jabs. “If you come to the marae, you’ll meet people who look like you, who share your values and beliefs, and who understand how our people and community work,” she added.

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New Zealand Attempts a Record-Setting ‘Vaxathon’