The Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine has been provisionally approved for use in New Zealand, the Prime Minister announced today.
Speaking to media from Northland, Jacinda Arden said the Government was "not in a race to be first, but to ensure safe and timely access to vaccines for all New Zealanders".
Provisional approval means the vaccine needs to meet certain conditions, and more data needs to be gathered from clinical trials.
"It means we can now begin preparations for the first stage in our vaccination roll-out,” Ardern said.
Pfizer is the first coronavirus vaccine approved for use in New Zealand, and will see border workers and essential staff the first to receive a shot.
Those most at risk of getting Covid-19 will also receive the vaccine first, with the broader population able to be vaccinated from the second half of the year.
“Subject to expected delivery of the first batch of the vaccine, we will start vaccinating first our border workers and the people they live with," Ardern said.
The vaccine could start arriving in the country from next month. New Zealand has ordered 1.5 million doses, enough for 750,000 people.
The country's medical regulator, Medsafe, met yesterday for final discussions on the jab before sign-off was sought from a ministerial group.
Following today's approval, Ministry of Health officials will give advice to the Government to set out who are most suited to receive the vaccine, such as age ranges.
“We expect the first Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines will arrive in New Zealand by the end of the first quarter, but we are making sure everything is in place in case there is an earlier arrival," Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said.
“Once vaccination of our border workers starts, we expect it to be completed within two to three weeks."
Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said there was a "vigorous assessment process" in coming to the decision.
“This provisional approval is very much the start of a new chapter in our Covid-19 response and I want to reassure New Zealanders we will also be applying the same rigour to all subsequent vaccine applications.
"Vaccination is a key next step in our ongoing response to this virus. It's also a good point to recognise the incredible amount of work New Zealanders have put in to support our successful response to date.
"There is more work to do, we are not out of the woods yet — but the provisional approval of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine is a significant milestone."