New Zealand’s Covid-19 minister called for patience with the country’s vaccine launch program, saying it was unlikely to follow the UK in using emergency provisions to speed up approval.
Covid-19 Minister Chris Hipkins said: “We are in a slightly different situation than other countries that use emergency provisions to approve a vaccine, and in many cases these countries do so because they suffer greatly from Covid, with thousands of people dying every day.”
He said that New Zealand faced a different situation, but added: “We are preparing, and are preparing, until vaccines are pre-approved upon their arrival in New Zealand.”
New Zealand experts agree that the country, like Australia, can withstand a longer waiting period and should take a strategic approach to its vaccination program.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday that mass vaccinations will begin next week after becoming pregnant The first country in the Western world to approve a Covid vaccine.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said that no pillars of the Pfizer / BioNTech jab license have been cut in record time, and the vaccine has undergone the most comprehensive scrutiny by experts working around the clock. The UK has purchased 40 million doses of the vaccine, which has been shown to be up to 95% effective.
At least 60,000 people have died of Covid in the United Kingdom, with more than 1.6 million cases recorded. In contrast, New Zealand’s total Covid-19 death toll is 25, with a few cases outside its border system since August.
Fran Brady, clinical director of the Vaccine Alliance Aotearoa NZ, said workers within the New Zealand border system – including health professionals – should be vaccinated first, followed by those most at risk. “This will include the elderly, those who live in nursing homes and those with high rates of common ailments such as Maori,” she said.
Dr Brady said Kiwi should be prepared to wait anyway because regulatory approvals and logistical services – including ultra-cold freezers and a supportive health workforce – have yet to be secured.
Michael Baker, a professor of public health at the University of Otago, said New Zealand’s success in dealing with the virus has allowed some altruism. “One of the advantages of successful phase-out is providing vaccine supplies to higher-priority countries that do not have the resources to do what Australia and New Zealand have done,” he said.
Dr. Baker agreed with Brady that the groups most at risk of contracting the virus should be vaccinated first, followed by groups at risk of severe cases. “That is why the modest supplies of the Pfizer vaccine will be very beneficial to us,” he said.
Helen Pettosis-Harris, a vaccination specialist at the University of Auckland, said the Pfizer vaccine – which both the UK and New Zealand deal with – requires complex infrastructure and may not be suitable for developing countries. “There will be enough vaccine for everyone,” Kiwi reassured.
With the Australian Associated Press
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