Covid 19 coronavirus: Auckland Airport MPI staff ‘fuming’ after being left behind in vaccine rollout

Ministry for Primary Industries staff at the country’s biggest airports have been left frustrated as they’re put to the back of the vaccine rollout queue.

While their Immigration, Customs, Auckland Airport and even MPI colleagues at various ports have had their vaccines, MPI staff based at Auckland International Airport were now seething that they’d been left behind, a source has told the Herald.

The country’s vaccine rollout for border workers began on Wednesday last week, with many staff, including health workers, all getting the jab.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said yesterday, 75 per cent of people who have received Covid vaccines were from South Auckland and that area would be at the front of the queue when it finally came to the general vaccination rollout.

Most border workers also lived in South Auckland.

However, an MPI source said some worked within a couple of metres of travellers coming through the airport, helping load bags at x-ray machines.

“MPI border workers haven’t received theirs at the airport, Customs and Immigration apparently have. It sounds like MOH is messing them around.

“The facilities are there, they just haven’t had the invite email. The lack of preparation has been astounding.

“They’ve just been told to be patient, all the while everyone else has had them. It’s absolutely inept. They’ve had months to plan this.”

Staff had been told last week that they would receive emails about where to book for the vaccine, but nothing has been forthcoming.

“Port workers and other agencies around the country have had theirs yet the highest-risk port, the International Airport workers, are still waiting.

“Everyone else who are much lower risk have been vaccinated. They’re all fuming, they were promised and yet have been left in the dark.”

A Health Ministry spokesperson said they understood border workers wanted to get vaccinated swiftly but they could expect “their vaccinations in due course”.

Vince Arbuckle, deputy director general in charge of MPI Covid response said it was important to note that Auckland and Christchurch airports only went live with the rollout on Wednesday and the first dose was a three-week programme.

“We have been keeping our staff updated regularly regarding the vaccination programme. Some of our quarantine officers at Auckland airport have been vaccinated at the airport clinic as walk ins.

“We expect all MPI staff at Auckland International airport to receive their vaccinations according to the expected rollout timeframe as bookings are scheduled by the DHB.”

Some MPI staff based at the Ports of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, as well as Christchurch airport, had already received their vaccines.

Arbuckle said all MPI staff covered under the mandatory testing order were “being treated as a priority group in the vaccine rollout programme”.

“Our number one priority is the health, safety and wellbeing of our people.”

Infection prevention measures – including good hygiene, physical distancing and PPE – had always been part of its multi-layered approach to keeping people safe.

MPI had 64 permanent staff at Auckland airport and a pool of 150 other staff “who were deployed there as necessary”.

All were on the priority list for vaccination.

“We have 10 staff at Christchurch airport who work each Tuesday to clear a regular flight. We do not have staff working at other airports around the country currently as there are no international flights arriving.

“However, from time to time, there are charter flights that may arrive at other international airports and our staff will be called upon as required.”

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