Booster jabs, alternative Pfizer vaccine in the works

Source: 1News

New Zealanders could soon be seeing Covid-19 booster shots along with an alternative vaccine in the future after medical specialists got a heads up in a meeting with government officials on Thursday.

Dozens of independent experts sat down with Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield and his team to discuss the country's pandemic response as the Covid-19 Delta outbreak continues to grow.

While New Zealand continues to race to improve its Covid-19 vaccination rates, there may be some options rolled out in the coming weeks.

Association of Salaried Medical Specialists CEO Sarah Dalton told Breakfast that Bloomfield said preparations are already underway to organise Covid-19 booster shots for New Zealanders.

"He was able to confirm they are putting work in place, so it will be able to happen soon. We are really pleased to hear that." 

The Director-General of Health told her that they're looking at what time Kiwis will need boosters months on from their two jabs. 

Studies have suggested that the Pfizer vaccine's immunity against Covid-19 begins waning after six to eight months, prompting some countries like Israel to roll out booster shots. 

Those in Group 1 of the vaccine roll out in New Zealand which started in February will be starting that period now. 

Melbourne-based epidemiologist  Professor Tony Blakely told Q+A  on Sunday that New Zealand would need boosters in the future to stay "on balance" with the rest of the world. 

Blakely said it was "critical" that vaccination rates of  80 to 90 per cent  are reached among the population, including those over five before boosters are rolled out to prevent equity issues.  

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins also told Q+A that Government knew boosters would be needed in the future, and New Zealanders would have access to them. 

Alongside boosters, New Zealanders may soon have access to alternative Pfizer vaccines, helping relieve hesitancy by those cautious about mRNA vaccines. 

Vaccines like Pfizer's, known as  mRNA vaccines,  work by training the body's immune system to recognise viruses by telling the cells to create a harmless spike protein similar to what's found in Covid-19. 

While  mRNA vaccines  have been studied for decades, they are considered relatively new technology compared to other alternatives like Janssen and AstraZeneca, viral vector vaccines. 

Viral vector vaccines  create immunity using a modified version of a virus that delivers genetic instructions to cells into making the spike protein found in Covid-19. 

There are no active diseases in mRNA or viral vector vaccines, meaning you can't catch the virus from it, and it won't alter your DNA. 

In July, Medsafe, New Zealand's medicine regulatory body, granted provisional approval for Johnson & Johnson's Janssen vaccine.

It's only the second vaccine to be given approval behind Pfizer in New Zealand. 

The rollout to the 300,000 Kiwis to book their jab comes five days earlier than expected.

Sarah Dalton says some people are still cautious about having the Pfizer jab and may feel more comfortable with other types.  

"We understand that there are some people who worry about the mRNA vaccines, and he did say that they are looking at getting an alternative approved." 

While there's no timeline for these announcements to be expected, Dalton says they might not be far off. 

"I think there's a whole bunch of things that are going to be landing very soon."