New Zealand could approve its first Covid-19 vaccine in just over a week.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Government is making "swift progress towards vaccinating New Zealanders against the virus, but we’re also absolutely committed to ensuring the vaccines are safe and effective".
Medsafe is set to seek advice about the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine. From there, a ministerial expert advisory committee would review Medsafe’s benefit-risk assessment next Tuesday.
"Depending on feedback, Medsafe may be able to grant provisional approval as soon as the following day [Feb 3]," Ardern said.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said border workers and managed isolation staff would be the first to get vaccinated, with an expectation it could take a few weeks.
"That will be the start of New Zealand’s largest ever vaccination campaign. Doing so will add another layer to our border defences.
"We hope to start vaccinating the wider population mid-year."
"It’s vital for New Zealanders to know that Medsafe is undertaking robust assessments of this vaccine and others so that we can be confident they’re safe and effective," Hipkins said.
Last month, it was announced border workers and essential staff will be the first to be vaccinated, with the expectation they will be vaccinated in the second quarter of 2021.
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.
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.