New Zealand Grants Formal Approval to Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine

New Zealand on Feb. 10 has formally approved the use of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, a week after the country’s regulatory body Medsafe granted it with a provisional approval.

“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,” COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said.

“When the first batch of vaccine arrives, we will be ready to go,” Hipkins also said, adding that the vaccines will arrive in smaller batches over a series of weeks, instead of in one shipment.

Authorities have repeatedly said that they expect the vaccines to arrive by the end of March, but did not provide a specific date.

According to Hipkins, frontline medical workers, border officials, quarantine personnel, and airline staff will be the first to receive the vaccine once it arrives.

Furthermore, only those aged 16 years and above can receive the vaccine as those younger than 16 have not been included in the clinical trials.

New Zealand has ordered 1.5 million doses of the vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, which is enough for 750,000 people out of a population of five million.

“As part of our portfolio, we have secured up to 750,000 courses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine through an Advance Purchase Agreement,” Hipkins said, adding that the government is seeking  for “a further small allocation through the COVAX Facility.”

Medsafe is also in talks with other COVID-19 vaccine developers — AstraZeneca, Novavax, and Janssen — for the approval of their respective vaccines.

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