The Covid-19 Response Minister said patience was needed during the launch of New Zealand’s first Covid-19 vaccine, but the government would ensure there were no delays in the process.
Chris Hipkins told me Morning Report it is unlikely that the government will use emergency provisions to push it as fast as other countries.
“We want to vaccinate people as fast as we can in New Zealand. That’s why we are buying all kinds of vaccines and getting a portfolio of vaccines, bringing them here as quickly as possible,” he said.
“The distribution chain is something we’ve already started working on. We have new equipment running and it’s being ordered and supplied so we can administer the vaccine.”
The minister’s comments came after the British news approved the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 drug for emergency use, became the first country in the world to do so.
British health secretary Matt Hancock expressed confidence in the regulatory process that allows hospitals to start rolling out mass immunizations as early as next week.
However, Hipkins said there was no rush to approve a vaccine in New Zealand.
“I think, as a humanitarian, one of the things I see here too is that some of the highest pressure will come from countries where people are dying,” he said.
“We are in a slightly different position to other countries using emergency provisions to approve vaccines and in many cases those countries are doing that because they have suffered so much from Covid, with thousands of people dying every day.”
But Hipkins provided assurances that New Zealand’s approval process would be completed without administrative or legislative delay, in readiness for the first shipment of the vaccine.
Vaccines will be approved prior to arrival and he reiterated March as an estimated date of administration. Storage and other equipment currently sourced and distributed.
New Zealand residents will be vaccinated against a variety of products. So far two have been announced – Pfizer and Janssen.
The Pzifer product will be available in the country in early March and is a two-dose vaccine that will cover 750,000 people.
Janssen’s only requires one injection but won’t get here until near September, with the initial two million doses and more if needed.
The drug has not completed clinical trials and will only be given if proven safe, Hipkins said.
Data from other trials around the world will be used to inform decision making in New Zealand’s approval process, he added.
Clinical trials will help determine who will get the vaccine first. Different vaccines, depending on their nature, can be adapted to different groups.
“We’re going to be looking at evidence from clinical trials on efficacy, how effective the vaccine is for different population groups and whether there’s a risk, for example, so we’re going to look at all of that.”
The government has purchased nine large (-70 C) super-cold freezers to store the Pzifer vaccine and the smaller 40 so it can be stored in a different location when it is launched.
Janssen just needs a regular cooler.
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