Pfizer vaccine signed off by Government, with rules about who will get it

Use of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine has been signed off by the Government. It also endorsed additional guidelines around the vaccine, such as a minimum age of 16 to get the jab.

That was due to the clinical trials not yet including people aged under that age.

The guidelines also require a 30-minute observation period after the jab, advice that pregnant people discuss the risks and benefits, and it is suitable for those lactating. Patients receiving specific therapies Keytruda, Opdivo, Yervoy and Tecentriq will not have the vaccine. 

There also has to be adequate information provided, especially around common side effects such as a fever, muscle pain and fatigue. 

The vaccine, one of four the Government has purchased in advance, was provisionally approved for use in New Zealand by Medsafe last week. It still needed approval from a ministerial group.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the Government's 'decision to use' was "a further greenlight on the road to our roll-out" of the vaccine. 

"Now we’ve reached the crucial stage of approval for the first vaccine, we are in a much better position to start having a conversation with New Zealanders about how we plan to proceed, recognising the natural questions some will have," Hipkins said. 

Vaccine information campaigns will kick off from next week.

Following last week's approval, Ministry of Health officials gave advice to the Government to set out who are most suited to receive the vaccine. 

Up to 750,000 courses of the Pfizer vaccine have been secured, with the Government attempting to get another small batch for early distribution

"We will start vaccinating our border workers with within days of arrival and then the people they live with," Hipkins said.

"People such as cleaners, the nurses who undertake health checks in MIQ, security staff, customs and border officials, airline staff and hotel workers will be among the first to get the vaccine."

It is anticipated the vaccine could arrive in New Zealand in March. 

"While vaccination of our border and other frontline workers takes place, we will continue to receive advice from officials on the other vaccines in our portfolio. Medsafe is in regular conversations with AstraZeneca and Janssen and has begun engagement with Novavax," Hipkins said.