First COVID-19 vaccine approved

Medsafe has provisionally approved New Zealand's first COVID-19 vaccine.

The provisional approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is a positive step in New Zealand’s fight against COVID-19, and means we can now begin preparations for the first stage in our vaccination roll-out.

Medsafe provides independent advice to the Government and approves all medicines and vaccines available in New Zealand. Approval has been a very carefully considered and robust process, with safety the key priority.

Its decision is the culmination of a rigorous assessment process over many months to ensure the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is safe and effective to use here. It is informed by the most up-to-date medical and scientific data.

They’ve been in regular contact with medicines regulators around the world where the vaccine is already being rolled out. Allowing some time to study the vaccine roll-out overseas has provided extra assurance before starting our vaccination programme here.

New Zealand is in a fortunate position in not having any current community outbreaks or transmission of COVID-19. Those most at risk of getting COVID-19 will receive the vaccine first, with the broader community accessing the vaccine from the second half of the year.

Subject to expected delivery of the first batch of the vaccine, we will start vaccinating first our border workers and the people they live with. People such as cleaners, the nurses who undertake health checks in MIQ, security staff, customs and border officials, airline staff and hotel workers will be among the first to get the vaccine.

Vaccinating our frontline staff will provide a critical additional line of defence to keep them well and to help prevent COVID-19 entering the community.

Following Medsafe’s approval, Ministry of Health officials will give advice to the Government this week about the ‘decision to use’ the vaccine. This will set out who are most suited to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, such as age ranges.

We expect the first Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines to arrive in New Zealand by the end of March, but are making sure everything is in place in case there is an earlier arrival.

Once vaccination of our border workers starts, we expect it to be completed within 2 to 3 weeks.

The Government will be encouraging all New Zealanders to get vaccinated. Safe and effective vaccines are an essential part of how we protect New Zealand and our Pacific neighbours from COVID-19.

Find out more about COVID-19 vaccines