August 10, 2021

Insider view: What it was like working at New Zealand’s first mass-vaccination event

Dealla Smith, COVID-19 Immunisation Education Facilitator for IMAC, has been clocking up her vaccination experience since the COVID-19 rollout began, working as both an educator and vaccinator.

Cartoon image of a man showing his arm where he received a vaccination

Dealla Smith, COVID-19 Immunisation Education Facilitator for IMAC, has been clocking up her vaccination experience since the COVID-19 rollout began, working as both an educator and vaccinator.

She took part in New Zealand’s first mass-vaccination event, vaccinating in an out-of-the-ordinary environment which clocked up a mammoth 15,800 vaccinations over a three-day period. To achieve vaccination at scale, the event used the Made-in-Canada solution: ‘Hockey hub ‘ vaccination model whereby the vaccinators move around the consumers (normally the other way around). Read on for Dealla’s insider view into what it was like working at this special event.

Arriving at the Vodafone Events Centre in Manukau for my first 12-hour shift, I wondered what I was in for. I have spent the last six months working at the Immunisation Advisory Centre (IMAC) learning and teaching others how to vaccinate with the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. It was now time to put all that learning into action, with an average time to vaccinate of only 90 seconds per consumer.

Melanie Eady, Clinical Site Lead at the event and COVID-19 Immunisation Education Facilitator for IMAC, and her team had given everyone working at the event training on how to safely gain a short medical record, verbal consent and then vaccinate.


Each vaccinator and administrator had a trolley with an iPad attached. I logged into the COVID-19 Immunisation Register (CIR), checked the vaccine syringes and off we went. We started at the top of an aisle, where our first consumer was sitting. I asked the questions:

Are you feeling well today?

Is this your first Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine today?

Have you ever had a previous severe allergic reaction to any vaccine or injection in the past?

Are you on any blood-thinning medications or do you have a bleeding disorder?

Have you had any vaccines in the past four weeks? Are you happy to go ahead with your vaccination today?

She said yes, so I landmarked to find the deltoid muscle on the arm and gave the intra-muscular (IM) injection. That was the first of many vaccinations I gave that day. 

The event was well organised and ran smoothly, with great teamwork displayed by all those involved. It was fantastic that 15,800 people had their first vaccination and they are scheduled to get their second vaccination in five weeks at the same venue.

The highlight for me was meeting  Dr Ashley Bloomfield, Director-General of Health and Chief Executive of the Ministry of Health. He visited the site on Sunday, speaking with us and having multiple photos taken, all the while smiling and thanking us for our hard work.  

Melanie Eady said: "It was incredible to be a part of New Zealand's first mass vaccination event and the three days exceeded our expectations. The workforce was outstanding, and it was busy over each 12-hour shift.

“No one position or role was deemed more important than the other, everyone worked collaboratively. The consumers were grateful and at times nervous, as the environment was unique. There were 135 staff and 242 vaccination booths where everyone remained calm and quiet both before and after their vaccination event." 

Sally Schnauer, COVID-19 Immunisation Education Facilitator for IMAC and fellow vaccinating team member said, "It was such a positive event, people were so pleased to be getting their vaccination." 

These events will continue over the next few months to provide safe and effective vaccination against COVID-19, to help protect as many New Zealanders as possible from the virus.

If you want to be vaccinated at one of these events, book your appointment online here. 

If you want to help out by becoming a vaccinator, look at the IMAC COVID-19 programme page on how to go about this. 

Written by Dealla Smith, COVID-19 Immunisation Education Facilitator for IMAC.