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Govt too slow to order Pfizer Covid vaccines: National

National says the Government took too long to order Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer. 

Pfizer vaccine vials. Source: Associated Press

However, the Government said the timing and quantities of vaccines delivered relied on its negotiations with the pharmaceutical company.

Responses to written questions from National’s Covid-19 response spokesperson Chris Bishop revealed the Government first ordered Pfizer vaccines on January 29 this year. 

Bishop said this “partly explained” why New Zealand in June ranked last out of OECD countries at 120th in the world for doses administered per capita. 

The first order to Pfizer was for 56 trays, or about 65,520 vaccine doses. That came months after New Zealand signed its advanced purchase agreement with Pfizer on October 12. 

Bishop said the Government should have made an immediate order for “as many doses as possible” after that date, and should have “moved as quickly as possible to approve the vaccine use in New Zealand”. 

“Pfizer was approved in the UK on December 2 and at the time it was approved in New Zealand on February 3, it had been approved in more than 50 countries. Kiwis are now bearing the brunt of poor, and slow, decision making by the Government,” he said. 

“A condition of New Zealand’s agreement with Pfizer was that no product could be shipped until Medsafe granted approval of the vaccine, which occurred on February 3, and the order arrived on February 15.

“However, that doesn’t explain why New Zealand only ordered doses on January 29, and only ordered so few.”

Medsafe at the time said it was monitoring vaccine rollouts overseas to make its decision on whether the Pfizer jab was safe for use in New Zealand. 

In the response to Bishop’s question about why the Government had not agreed to purchase vaccines from Pfizer before October, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said it commenced negotiations with the company in July last year. 

Hipkins said “several novel technical details” needed to be finalised before the October agreement was reached. He said details of negotiations with Pfizer were covered by a confidential information disclosure agreement, so he couldn’t give further information. 

Speaking to reporters this afternoon, Hipkins said Pfizer wouldn't allow New Zealand to receive deliveries or put in a purchase order — an agreement about how many vaccines would be sent and when — until the Government knew Medsafe was going to approve the jabs for use.

"Once we were confident of that [Medsafe approval], a few days before that, we got the order in so that we could take delivery fairly soon after." 

He said New Zealand had to negotiate with Pfizer about the number of vaccines it would be getting. So, it was "misleading" to describe it as solely a choice by the Government. 

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More than 370,000 doses arrived yesterday, two days ahead of schedule. Source: 1 NEWS

Hipkins said vaccine deliveries continued to ramp up. On Sunday, New Zealand received a shipment of more than 370,000 doses from Pfizer, the largest single delivery yet