New Zealand to start COVID-19 vaccinations soon

New Zealand will begin vaccinating its population starting next week.

That’s according to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who confirmed a receipt date for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

"I have good news. This morning I can confirm that New Zealand's first batch of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is set to arrive in New Zealand next week well within our scheduled timeframe and ahead of previous expectations. That means we should be in a position, all things going to plan, to start vaccinating our border workers from next Saturday the 20th of February."

Ardern added that some 12,000 border workers and their families will receive the vaccine first, followed by at-risk groups of healthcare workers, elderly and those with medical conditions.

Her announcement comes amid pressure to start inoculating the country’s 5 million people as New Zealand is one of few countries that have virtually eliminated the virus.

Neighbouring Australia has also formally approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Leaders say they expect to start inoculations by the end of this month-without giving a specific date.

Australia and New Zealand had hoped to open a travel bubble between the two countries by the end of March, but fresh outbreaks in Australia have stalled those plans.

Ardern said border restrictions could be eased if there was evidence that vaccines reduce transmission.