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Decision on Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine approval to be announced tomorrow

Medsafe has met today to decide if it’ll sign off on approval for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

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If given the green light, it will be the first coronavirus vaccine to be distributed in New Zealand. Source: 1 NEWS

1 NEWS understands a decision will be announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern tomorrow afternoon.

If approved, Pfizer will be the first vaccine approved in New Zealand and jabs for border workers could start as early as March.

The next group to be vaccinated will be high-risk frontline health workers and frontline public sector and emergency service staff. The third group would be older people and those with underlying health conditions, and also at-risk health and social service workers.

Medsafe will be closely reviewing data from Pfizer's clinical trials as well as the results taken from countries such as the US and UK, which have already begun administering the jab.

Their main job is to decide whether they believe that this specific Covid-19 vaccine is safe and effective enough for wide distribution and isn't likely to get approval if there isn't enough data to suggest this.

However, even if Medsafe gives the go ahead, it's the Government that has the final say as to whether New Zealand should begin using the vaccine.

Vaccinologist and University of Auckland associate professor Helen Petousis-Harris told 1 NEWS the vaccine "looks to be highly efficacious so it’s probably going to work really well". 

Petousis-Harris added that New Zealand’s rollout of the vaccine is “not really taking us much longer” than Australia, which signed off on the vaccine last week.

“These things are happening really, really quickly,” she said. “It feels at the moment that every week lasts a year, but we’re actually moving very, very quickly.”

She said it’s unknown at this stage how many people will need to be vaccinated to “more or less eliminate the disease as a continual threat” following the reopening of the borders, but added: “One thing that we know is that we’re going to need to vaccinate most people.”

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Helen Petousis-Harris says the Pfizer vaccine, which could roll out from March, is “probably going to work really well”. Source: 1 NEWS

The Government bought 7.6 million doses of the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, which could cover 3.8 million New Zealanders.

It also secured 10.7 million doses from Novavax, a US vaccine development company, which could vaccinate 5.6 million people.

Both vaccines need two doses. The two vaccines add to the 750,000 courses from Pfizer and five million courses from Janssen.

A ministerial group will meet tomorrow, acting on the recommendations from today's decision.