The New Zealand government has formally approved the use of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, a Minister said on Wednesday.
In a statement, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said that border workers and the people they live with will be the first to be vaccinated, Xinhua news agency reported.
He added that people such as cleaners’ nurses who undertake health checks in managed isolation facilities; security staff; customs and border officials; airline staff; and hotel workers will also be among the first to get the vaccine.
Following the provisional approval by New Zealand’s medical regulatory body Medsafe last week, the formal government approval represents another critical step in the process of ensuring the vaccine is safe and effective for New Zealanders, according to the Minister.
“Medsafe’s provisional approval was step one and ‘decision to use’ is a further greenlight on the road to our rollout. After receiving further advice, Cabinet has endorsed officials’ advice to use Pfizer/BioNTech.
“While we’ve found the ‘decision to use’ process around this first application to be relatively straightforward, the government also recognise there will be a huge amount of further detail to consider as the other vaccines in our portfolio of 14.91 million courses go through the Medsafe approval process.
“As part of our portfolio, we have secured up to 750,000 courses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine through an Advance Purchase Agreement, and we are seeking a further small allocation through the COVAX Facility,” ,” Hipkins said in the statement.
He confirmed that the vaccine has been assessed by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and has gained its approval for use in the country.
“While vaccination of our border and other frontline workers takes place, we will continue to receive advice from officials on the other vaccines in our portfolio. Medsafe is in regular conversations with AstraZeneca and Janssen and has begun engagement with Novavax. A similar rigorous approval process is being followed.”
The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases has increased to 2,324, while the death toll stood at 25, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday.