COVID-19 vaccinator workforce tracking well for peak of rollout

New Zealand’s COVID-19 vaccinator workforce continues to expand with more than 10,000 people having now completed Pfizer vaccine training, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says.

“It’s fantastic news that 10,497 vaccinators have now worked through the vaccinator training course,” Chris Hipkins said.

“With 5114 of those people having been active in the vaccinator workforce since February, the increasing size and scope of the rollout is clearly benefitting from their expertise.

“A huge amount of work has gone on to have the vaccinator workforce ready to peak at the right time - the Ministry of Health predicts we’ll need at least 1,600 full-time equivalent vaccinators during the periods of highest demand in September and October.

“However, because of the part-time nature of many roles, during this key period we’ll actually need more than 6,500 people active on the vaccine roster at any one time. 

“Today’s tally means we’re on track to meet that goal.

“We’ve also been seeing a strong response to our programme targeting kaiāwhina vaccinators – people already working in our health system in roles such as healthcare assistants. When trained, the kaiāwhina workstream feeds into the broader group.

“More than 250 people have signed up to be part of it, and 70 kaiāwhina COVID-19 trained vaccinators have already moved through the programme to be out in the field, with more in training.

“Kaiāwhina have embraced the opportunity to learn how to vaccinate so they can help protect their communities.

“This programme is also a boost for the number of Māori and Pacific vaccinators, helping make sure everyone can feel comfortable when they access their shots.

“This programme will continue to grow.   That’s important because although more than half of our COVID-19 vaccinators were already experienced vaccinators, including registered nurses, medical practitioners and pharmacists, we recognised we needed to ensure a diverse and growing workforce.

“It’s why we’ve developed new pathways to broaden professions and backgrounds.   That approach has increased the size of the vaccinator pool, and broadened its diversity.

“Last year, the Immunisation Advisory Centre (IMAC) started provisional vaccinator training, which widened the range of health professionals who could join our COVID-19 vaccinator workforce.

“Many have taken up this opportunity, with more than a third of those who’ve completed the Pfizer vaccination training completing the provisional vaccinator course first.

“This opened up opportunities for final year student nurses, midwives, pharmacists and paramedics, plus fourth-year onwards medical students to become COVID-19 vaccinators.

“Other health professionals have also been able to train, including dentists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and dieticians.

“Having heard just a few of the stories motivating our recruits, I’m offering up a huge thanks to everyone.

“I would particularly acknowledge the commitment of people like Renee Muru-Barnard and the team of kaiāwhina in South Auckland.  They’re some of the  Kiwis who’ve stepped up to join our largest ever vaccination programme, and to support their communities’ health and wellbeing.

“So many people from a wide spectrum of professions and walks of life are taking up the baton to help protect their fellow New Zealanders.

“I want to applaud their commitment,” Chris Hipkins said.

Profile:  Renee Muru-Barnard, COVID-19 vaccination manager - Turuki Healthcare

Renee’s professional background is with Turuki Healthcare, South Auckland

“South Auckland is a beautiful place to work in, and I think to have a range of vaccinators there – people who come from all walks of life, who are of all ethnicities – they are able to respond better to the cultural needs of whanau,” says Renee about the team she works with.

“I think that’s really important.  I’m from a little place in the Hokianga and when Spanish flu came through, it literally wiped out our hapū.

“And when I think about COVID and the response we need in little towns like that, I thought that if I could jump out and go and help the vaccine effort, then that’s what I wanted to be able to do.”