Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Ministers announce nationwide Covid vaccine campaign at Grafton campus

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern thanked University of Auckland staff for their work combating Covid-19 as she unveiled government plans for an historic vaccination campaign.

The Prime Minister and government ministers revealed deals to buy vaccines from AstraZeneca and Novavax and pledged to vaccinate every New Zealander for free, in a media briefing in the Faculty of Medical & Health Sciences on Thursday.

Government officials met university staff who dropped everything to process Covid-19 tests as the crisis unfolded earlier this year. Ms. Ardern and Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield paid tribute to those who helped to process 60,000 Covid-19 test swabs.

Geared up in protective clothing, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Jim Metson and Dean John Fraser showed the Prime Minister and four government ministers — Megan Woods, Chris Hipkins, Ayesha Verrall and Andrew Little – through a laboratory featuring antibody testing that will play an important role in the next phase of combatting Covid-19.

Professor Chris Bullen talked to the Prime Minister about “long Covid,” where some patients suffer long-term ill effects such as severe fatigue, Associate Professor Helen Petousis-Harris answered media questions on vaccines, and Dr Nikki Moreland explained serology tests showing how long antibodies persist after people are infected or vaccinated.

Ms. Ardern thanked the University for work throughout the pandemic – “We’re very, very grateful.”
Staff who met the Prime Minister and Dr Bloomfield included the likes of Jason Copedo, the technical manager for the Grafton Clinical Genomics laboratory – a medical faculty/Liggins Institute facility where Covid-19 testing was carried out – and Pascalene Houseman, Sandra Fitzgerald and Tamsin Robb, from the department of Molecular Medicine and Pathology, who rushed to join the testing team.

The testing work was carried out with the Auckland District Health Board’s LabPLUS team, under a partnership with the University called the Auckland Academic Health Alliance.


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