New Zealand authorizes its first COVID-19 vaccine

By Rachel Arthur contact

- Last updated on GMT

Pic:Getty/igorvershinsky
Pic:Getty/igorvershinsky

Related tags: New Zealand, COVID-19 vaccine

New Zealand’s regulator Medsafe has given the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine provisional approval, with border workers the first to be offered the vaccine.

The country has ordered 1.5 million doses of the two-dose vaccine. It is the first COVID-19 vaccine to be given the green light in the country, which has largely kept the pandemic at bay with a sharp lockdown last year and strict border controls.

“New Zealand is in a fortunate position in not having any current community outbreaks or transmission of COVID-19,” ​said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as she welcomed the news. “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. It’s an extra layer to help protect New Zealanders and our economy against a future outbreak.”

Agreements with Janssen, Novavax and AstraZeneca 

Medsafe has streamlined its approval process for COVID-19 vaccines: through rolling reviews, prioritizing vaccine applications, and drawing on evaluations from other global regulators.     

With a population of around 5 million people, New Zealand also has three other COVID-19 vaccine agreements: with Janssen (5 million doses anticipated to be administered as a single dose); Novavax (10.72 million doses for 5.36 million people); and AstraZeneca (7.6 million doses for 3.8 million people).

The country has pledged to support Pacific vaccination programs: with its approach being to purchase enough vaccines to cover the Realm of New Zealand (Tokelau, Niue, Cook Islands) and Polynesian neighbours Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu; should their governments wish to take these up.

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