UK approval of Pfizer's Covid-19 jab unlikely to mean speedier deployment in NZ — expert

A New Zealand medical expert says Kiwis shouldn't get too excited about the UK's approval of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine — it could still be months away here.

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Professor Graham Le Gros doubts New Zealanders will be offered a jab before March. Social distancing will still be in the cards for six to nine months, he said.

The vaccine has been shown to be up to 95 per cent effective at preventing people from getting the virus, and the UK could begin administering doses as soon as next week when the first batches arrive from Belgium.

There are still challenges to deploying the vaccines — it needs to be kept at a frigid -70C and used rapidly after it's mixed into doses.

New Zealand has also ordered 1.5 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which should be ready for Kiwis in early 2021.

Speaking today to TVNZ1's Breakfast, Victoria University of Wellington professor Graham Le Gros of the Vaccine Alliance Aotearoa said New Zealand doesn't have the same situation as the UK, and we should now look to observe how well the vaccine does in the UK.

"Regulatory authorities have looked at this vaccine, they've looked at all the evidence, the level of immunity — is it worthwhile? is it safe? — and they've deemed it to be so, so it's getting rolled out," he said.

"So that's really good news for the world.

"All evidence today is that it's actually a good, safe vaccine. Everyone's been watching this and we'll get a chance in New Zealand to see just how it rolls out, and how it behaves in people."

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“We kind of need this light at the end of the tunnel,” says TVNZ1 reporter Daniel Faitaua, who is based in London. “It’s desperate mode here.” Source: 1 NEWS

That's a luxury New Zealand has, but in the United Kingdom the situation going into the northern hemisphere winter is getting desperate, 1 NEWS Europe correspondent Daniel Faitaua said earlier on Breakfast. 

Le Gros said the Pfizer vaccine could soon be superceded by even better vaccines just around the corner.

"This is just the start. It may not be the ultimate best vaccine. In fact, I guarantee there'll be a better vaccine down the track. This just actually starts getting some control of the spread, especially for those vulnerable people — those healthcare workers and, in our case, those border workers."