Vaccine dose gap recommendation changed to three weeks

New Zealanders who have had one dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine are now being urged by health officials to bring their second appointment forward, with the recommended time period between jabs back to three weeks from six.

On Wednesday, Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay said that in light of the increased risk from the current Delta outbreak, New Zealanders should now consider a shorter gap between the two doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

"That's because we need to protect ourselves, our whānau and our communities. We need as many people as possible to have their first dose to be partially protected, but we also need all those people to be fully vaccinated with two doses as soon as possible."

When questioned about the optimal time between doses, Dr McElnay said their technical advisory group said "there never was any safety concerns with vaccinating" around the three week timeframe.

"If you've had your first dose and the only thing that's stopping you from getting your second dose is waiting for a six week mark, the advice is, actually, that can be done sooner."

After three weeks was still within the "realms of being optimal", Dr McElnay said.

"It's a range, these are not pivot points.... so long as you have the three week gap, that bit is fixed."

In August, the Director General of Health announced that the recommended timeframe to get a second dose was being extended to six weeks from three, so more people could get their first dose faster.

"This is an important part of our being prepared for a possible outbreak of the more infectious Delta variant of the virus," Dr Bloomfield said. The eligibility for all New Zealanders to get the Covid jab opened up on September 1.

The standard gap was extended in August "to allow us to give one dose to a larger number of people, faster", Dr McElnay said, adding that by shortening the gap again, it could ensure more people are protected quicker.

So far, more than two million New Zealander have been fully vaccinated.

Data as of Monday 9am show that of the current outbreak, 61 people in total had received two doses of the vaccines - out of 1,357 cases.

Of the total, 3.2 per cent (44) were fully vaccinated for at least two weeks and 1.3 per cent (17) were fully vaccinated but were reported as a case less than 14 days after their second dose.

There were 303 of the total cases aged under 12 who were not eligible to be vaccinated.