Sci-tech

New Zealand will get first batch of coronavirus vaccines next week

New Zealand will get first batch of coronavirus vaccines next week”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced the first batch of Covid-19 vaccines are coming to New Zealand next week.

Ardern told reporters that she was not particularly anxious about any healthcare workers refusing the vaccination, as she didn't think many - if any - workers would turn the vaccine down.

Those workers' household contacts will be the next group to receive jabs.

Ardern said next week's delivery was ahead of schedule.

BioNTech, under pressure with its COVID-19 vaccine partner Pfizer to manufacture as many doses as possible this year, has started production at a former Novartis site it acquired in Germany.

Health minister Norihisa Tamura said at a news conference earlier in the day that assuming the panel finds no issues with the vaccine, he will "immediately approve it so that inoculations can begin right away".

So far, only Pfizer and AstraZeneca have submitted applications for approval.

Last month, Sweden froze payments to Pfizer to investigate whether the government was being overcharged for the vaccines. "We appreciate the effort the company has gone to to deliver the first instalment earlier than originally anticipated".

"We have pre-purchased enough vaccines to cover all New Zealanders and to do so for free, and the Pacific as well", she said.

The number received next week would be in the low tens of thousands.

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The first will be in the "low tens of thousands", but there will be close to a quarter of a million in New Zealand by the end of the first quarter.

About 20,000 ultracold freezers are slated to be set up at medical facilities across Japan to store the Pfizer vaccine, which needs to be kept at a temperature of about minus 75 C. The AstraZeneca vaccine can be stored at 2 to 8 C, making it easier to handle, but it is only around 70 percent effective.

"Systems and processes are in place for the first vaccinations to start once final checks have been completed", Chris Hipkins said. He added that the slower spread of the virus also limited Japan when it came to vaccine trials, and that it was important to have local trials to confirm safety. The doses will then be formally released to start the first phase of the vaccination programme.

A cast of top ministers are now fronting a media conference this morning and will be joined by director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield.

The returnee with Covid-19 died in Auckland's North Shore Hospital.

Health Minister Andrew Little and Housing Minister Megan Woods will also be at the media briefing.

The Ministry of Health has today confirmed two new cases of Covid-19 were found at New Zealand's border.

But neither has put an exact date as to when the doses are expected to land.

Ardern said that was still planned for the second half of this year. Each recipient requires two jabs, three weeks apart, to increase the level of protection.



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