AstraZeneca vaccine could be available from June, Janssen decision possible within weeks

Anna Whyte
Source: 1News

The Government anticipates the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine could be available from June, while a decision on the Janssen vaccine could be weeks away. 

Both vaccines have been in the Medsafe approval queue after more information was requested from the vaccine companies. 

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield announced on April 7 the Johnson & Johnson vaccine Janssen was being assessed by the country's medical regulator, Medsafe. The process was to begin on April 14 and Bloomfield anticipated advice for use of the vaccine would be provided two days later.

Once advice is received, sign-off must be sought from a ministerial group before vaccines can be rolled out.  

However, a day after the process began Medsafe sought additional data.

Asked today for an update on this, Bloomfield said it could now be several weeks before advice for Janssen is given by Medsafe. 

"Two to three weeks is when they expect to have the information back on the Janssen vaccine, and then that will help to inform a decision around the approval for that vaccine," he said. 

On AstraZeneca, Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall said she anticipated "that it will be able to be on track for June".

"Of course if concerns come up between now and then they will have to be worked through."

"It is not just a matter of Medsafe saying it is safe, it is a matter of there also being a considered clinical approach to which population in New Zealand would be best to have it and about the timing."

Medsafe New Zealand group manager Chris James told 1 NEWS Medsafe received the AstraZeneca application for its Covid-19 vaccine on January 29. 

"This application included the first tranche of information from AstraZeneca as part of a rolling application.

"A rolling application is a streamlined process that enables Medsafe to promptly review and assess applications for Covid-19 vaccines destined for use in New Zealand," he said. 

He said Medsafe received the most recent tranche of data from AstraZeneca on March 19. Medsafe requested more information from AstraZeneca on April 16. 

According to the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, the European Medicines Agency recommended including a warning with the AstraZeneca vaccine of unusual blood clots with low blood platelets - but emphasised it was very rare and said the prevention of Covid-19 outweighed the risk of adverse effects. 

The AstraZeneca vaccine also faced issues in its roll out to Australia from Europe.

It saw Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern criticise protectionism over the vaccines. 

Earlier this year, more than 250,000 AstraZeneca vaccines were stopped using an export control system to ensure the company would adhere to its contracts in the EU. 

Italy requested the blocking of the vaccines, and the EU did not object. Associated Press reported Italy objected to the shipment due to the shortage and delay of vaccines in the EU, and did not consider Australia a vulnerable nation. 

AstraZeneca is one of four Covid-19 vaccine varieties secured by New Zealand.