After months of leading “level four lives,” workers at the country’s most dangerous Covid facility say they are thinking of their families and communities after becoming the first border staff to be vaccinated.
And some running the campaign shed tears as it was set in motion.
About 70 Jet Park workers were yesterday the first in the government’s plan to vaccinate 12,000 managed isolation, quarantine and border workers in the next few weeks.
The second border worker to get the jab, Jet Park operations manager Drew Leafa, said from the moment he woke up, the day felt different.
There was a different vibe at work, a sense that something special was happening.
“It’s a milestone for New Zealand and for our quarantine sites and MIQ. Watching everyone around, just seeing this whole vibe … I was just focusing on this special occasion,” he said.
The first three workers to be vaccinated said there was more at play than their own jab in the arm – all were thinking of their families and their communities.
Nearly everyone who tests positive for Covid is sent to the Jet Park, with Leafa saying they operate at level four in their every day lives, worried about passing Covid on.
Leafa had given up rugby and was often more nervous in a relaxed community setting than in the super controlled environment of the Jet Park.
He took hand sanitiser everywhere and his left nostril had been “violated” 44 times from the constant testing, he said.
Health admin worker Lorna Masoe, who was third in line yesterday, said most worried more about their families than themselves.
“It’s a big thing for us working at the facility but it’s a greater deal for us to serve our nation,” she said.
And the first to get vaccinated, Lynette Faiva, said she had strict protocols for when she got home, having a shower before she even hugged her family.
It had been an honour and a privilege to be first to get the jab, she said.
The co-chair of the Covid Immunisation Implementation Advisory Group, Te Puea Winiata, said she shed tears on Friday as the “cavalcade” of vans arrived carrying the vaccine to the Jet Park.
She became emotional again as she recalled texting colleagues in Wellington “the eagle has landed”.
The next challenge was to capture the whānau and the bubbles of the border workers – and then the rest of the community, she said.
Nurse and vaccinator Tracey Peterson acknowledged there was some vaccine hesitancy in the community and wanted to work to give people a good experience so the word would spread.
She had been vaccinated on Friday.
“I wouldn’t have got it if it I didn’t think it was safe. I actually got it for my mokopuna and my whānau,” she said.
Despite having their injections, with second one due in three weeks, the workers would still have to keep up all of their strict infection prevention work.
That was because it was not yet known whether the vaccine stopped transmission of the virus, or simply protected those who had it.
However, the latest overseas data suggested it was, at the very least, cutting the rates of transmission.