AstraZeneca vaccine to be available later this month

Source: 1News

The Ministry of Health has confirmed the AstraZeneca vaccine will be available in late November, both to those are unable to receive the Pfizer vaccine and who “wish to be or are required to be vaccinated”.

Covid-19 Response minister, Chris Hipkins elaborated on Tuesday’s announcement, saying AstraZeneca will soon be added to New Zealand’s Covid-19 vaccine portfolio.

"In terms of access to AstraZeneca, people will need to go and have a conversation with a clinician, it won’t be any clinician there’ll be a group of clinicians they will have to go and see - to have that conversation with them," Hipkins told 1News.

"They will obviously be talking about the reasons why someone would be wanting to get AstraZeneca instead of Pfizer. Unfortunately, there is quite a lot of misinformation out there and for some of the people who are indicating they want an alternative vaccine, it’s because they’ve received some misinformation."

Hipkins said by talking to an experienced clinician, people would be able to make an "informed choice" on the differences between the two vaccines.

The Covid-19 Response minister says there is no order in place that restricts it being offered to others.

"Ultimately that’s their call,” he said.

Hipkins said AstraZeneca, a viral vector vaccine, is a "priority" for people who are covered by a vaccine mandate, but "there is no order in place that restricts it being offered to others".

The Ministry of Health confirmed Hipkins’ comments to 1News. A spokesperson saying “we’re making AstraZeneca available for the small group of people aged 18 and older who cannot receive the Pfizer vaccine, and for people who wish to have a different Covid-19 vaccine".

The ministry said the AstraZeneca vaccine is available for:

  • People who are unable to be vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine, e.g. this could be due to anaphylaxis or have been advised not to have the Pfizer vaccine by their primary care provide. Note, the number of eligible people who are unable to have the Pfizer vaccine is likely to be very small and the Immunisation Advisory Centre (IMAC) is recording this information); and:

  • Those who are hesitant to receive a Pfizer (mRNA) vaccine, but still wish to be, or are required to be vaccinated.

"Pfizer remains the main vaccine that we will be using in New Zealand. This is just about giving people another Covid-19 vaccine option, AstraZeneca," the spokesperson said.

"The AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine will be able to be delivered at selected vaccination centres starting in late November. The exact timing for this, along with details about the number of doses available, will be announced closer to the date.

"Work is well underway to prepare for the arrival of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines in the coming weeks. This includes workforce training, establishing the clinics, preparing cold storage facilities and ensuring logistics measures are in place," the ministry said.

Novavax, the 'old school,' protein subunit alternative to both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines is still undergoing MedSafe approval.

According to Pharmac, four different vaccines have been secured for Kiwis:

  • 10 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech (enough for 5 million people)

  • 2 million doses from Janssen (enough for 2 million people)

  • 7.6 million doses from the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca (enough for 3.8 million people)

  • 10.72 million doses from Novavax. (enough for 5.36 million people)