The Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine has been provisionally approved for use in New Zealand, where the government will begin vaccinating frontline healthcare and border workers in the coming months.
Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister, said the approval was a positive step in the country’s fight against Covid-19, of which there have been fewer than 2,000 cases nationwide.
In New Zealand, drug and vaccine approval rests with Medsafe, which also provides independent advice to the government. Although evaluation of the Pfizer vaccine was accelerated in New Zealand, it was not paced for an “emergency” drug as the virus has largely been under control.
“Medsafe’s decision is the culmination of a rigorous evaluation process over many months to ensure that the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine is safe and effective to use here. You are informed by the most up-to-date medical and scientific data. We can be confident in their decision, ”Ardern said.
“They have been in regular contact with drug regulators around the world where the vaccine is already being implemented. Allowing some time to study vaccine implementation abroad has provided additional assurance before starting our vaccination program here. “
According to the Health Ministry, New Zealand has no active community outbreaks or transmission of the disease, despite a scare in January that saw three people contract the virus in a managed isolation hotel.
Chief Health Officer Dr. Ashley Bloomfield said Medsafe worked “over the weekends and over the Christmas holidays” to evaluate global clinical data from the Pfizer vaccine in real time and as quickly as possible.
Ardern said that those most at risk of contracting Covid-19 would receive the vaccine first, with the wider community vaccination implemented starting mid-year.
Border workers and the people they live with would be the first to take the hit, followed by cleaners, security personnel and nurses conducting health checks at managed isolation facilities, customs and border officials, the airline staff and hotel workers.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins has said it could take up to a year to vaccinate New Zealand’s entire population of 5 million people.
The Pfizer vaccine has not yet arrived in the country, but officials expect it by the end of March. Amid criticism that New Zealand was being forgotten in the global launch of the vaccine, the government has repeatedly said that the need in other countries is greater and more urgent.
New Zealand has ordered 15 million Covid-19 vaccine cycles from four different providers. Will be free. Some of the vaccines will be shipped to Pacific countries and NZ $ 75 million will be included in aid to help Pacific countries vaccinate their vulnerable populations.
The prime minister said it was government policy to buy various types of vaccines as they progressed through the final stages of the trial, to ensure the options were successful.
The government will launch a major public health campaign encouraging Kiwis to get vaccinated, and Ardern has said the borders will remain closed until the nation is “vaccinated and protected.”
“I have said that 2021 is the year of the vaccine,” Ardern said.
“It is a full year program that we just started. We are not in a race to be first, but to ensure safe and timely access to vaccines for all New Zealanders. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism