New Delhi (NVI): The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been provisionally approved for use in New Zealand, where the government will begin vaccinating frontline healthcare and border workers in the coming months.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the approval was a positive step in the country’s fight against Covid-19 of which there have been fewer than 2,000 cases nationally.
In New Zealand, the approval of medicines and vaccines falls under Medsafe, which also provides independent advice to the government.
Although the assessment of the Pfizer vaccine was fast-tracked in New Zealand, it was not given the pace of an emergency medicine as the virus has been largely under control.
“Medsafe’s decision is the culmination of a rigorous assessment process over many months to ensure the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is safe and effective to use here. It is informed by the most up to date medical and scientific data. We can have confidence in their decision,” Ardern said.
According to the Ministry of Health, New Zealand has no active community outbreaks or transmission of the disease, despite a scare in January that saw three people catch the virus in a managed isolation hotel.
Ardern said those most at risk of contracting Covid-19 would receive the vaccine first, with the broader community vaccination rolled out from the middle of the year.
Border workers and the people they live with would be the first to receive the jab, followed by cleaners, security staff and nurses doing health checks in managed isolation facilities, customs and border officials, airline staff and hotel workers.
The Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins has said it could take as long as a year to vaccinate the entire New Zealand population of 5 million people.