COVID-19 vaccine progress encouraging

New Zealand has access to 1.5 million doses of the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, which has received promising results from clinical trials.

Last month the New Zealand Government agreed to buy enough of the Pfizer BioNTech product to vaccinate 750,000 people.

If Medsafe approves the vaccine for use in New Zealand, it is possible that some doses will be available here in the first part of 2021.

Pfizer and BioNTech will keep us up to date on when data will be available for Medsafe to begin its evaluation process. Medsafe is working to ensure any promising vaccines will be fully assessed as quickly as possible against the same criteria used for all other medicines that enter New Zealand.

This is just the first of several expected vaccine purchases which will create a portfolio of vaccine options for New Zealand.

The COVID-19 Vaccine Strategy Taskforce, led by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, is working with COVAX to access vaccines and negotiating with other pharmaceutical companies. Further announcements are expected this month.

The Ministry of Health is developing the process for rolling out vaccines as they become available and the approach will be finalised once the features of vaccines and the supply is understood.  

Three broad groups are being considered:

  • those at risk of spreading COVID-19
  • those at risk of contracting the virus
  • those with increased risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19.

The government has set aside $66.3 million for medical supplies and infrastructure to ensure New Zealand is ready to launch a COVID-19 Immunisation Programme as soon as a safe and effective vaccine is available.

COVID-19 vaccines in New Zealand