Covid 19 coronavirus: AstraZeneca vaccine approved for use in New Zealand

The AstraZeneca Covid vaccine has finally been approved for use in New Zealand – though many doses will be sent to Fiji while the Government here remains firmly in the Pfizer camp.

Acting Covid-19 Response Minister Ayesha Verrall announced today that Medsafe has granted provisional approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine for individuals 18 years of age and older.

New Zealand has bought 7.6 million doses, enough for 3.8 million people, through an advance purchase agreement last year.

They couldn’t be shipped here without Medsafe approval, and the first shipments aren’t expected to arrive until late August.

“Cabinet is yet to consider whether to use the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in New Zealand,” Verrall said in a statement.

“However, this is an important step towards enabling the donation of AstraZeneca from New Zealand to Pacific countries, where we have made commitments.”

Medsafe has already approved Pfizer for people aged 16 and up, and has granted provisional approval for its use in people aged 12 to 15 – which Cabinet is still yet to green-light.

The Government has secured enough Pfizer vaccine doses – 10 million – to vaccinate everyone in New Zealand.

Medsafe has already approved the Janssen vaccine for those 18 and over earlier this month. People only need one dose of the Janssen vaccine, and the Government is expecting a shipment of 2 million doses.

Janssen could be used to surge vaccinate an area where there is a outbreak.

The vaccine rollout has been using only the Pfizer vaccine so far, though it has been suggested that the rollout could have reached more people more quickly with a plan using multiple vaccines.

The Government also has a purchase agreement for 10.72 million doses of the Novavax vaccine, which Medsafe is still considering.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins has said that none of the other vaccines were expected to arrive in New Zealand until the second half of this year anyway, and there is no evidence to suggest the Medsafe-approval process was slowed down following the
Government’s announcement to focus on Pfizer.

The Government has previously said it was supporting Australia’s efforts to send 1 million doses of AstraZeneca to Fiji, which is in grips of one of the worst Delta-outbreaks in the world.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said that New Zealand couldn’t send its AstraZeneca supplies to Fiji until it was Medsafe-approved. She has pledged half a million doses.

New Zealand has previously sent some medical specialists and pledged up to $10 million to help Fiji in its Covid response, and for food rations to mitigate poverty.

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