• Patrick McBride

COVID-19 vaccine provisionally approved

New Zealand’s first COVID-19 vaccine has been provisionally approved by Medsafe as safe to use.

The provisional approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is a positive step in New Zealand’s fight against COVID-19 and allows us to begin preparations for the first stage in our vaccination rollout.

We expect the first Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines will arrive in New Zealand by the end of the first quarter and we are making sure everything is in place in case they arrive earlier.

A phased approach will see those most at risk getting the vaccine first, and the broader community accessing the vaccine in the second half of the year.

Our first focus will be to vaccinate our border and managed isolation and quarantine workers - including cleaners, nurses who undertake health checks in MIQ, security staff, customs and border officials, airline staff and hotel workers, which is about 12,000 people - plus the people they live with. This will take around 2-3 weeks.

Vaccinating our frontline staff will provide a critical additional line of defence to prevent COVID-19 entering the community. It’s an extra layer to help protect New Zealanders and our economy against future outbreaks.

We have come far in the fight against COVID-19 - getting vaccinated is key to locking in the gains we have made and protecting our hard-won freedoms.