Sydney, Australia, Jan 3 (efe-epa).- New Zealand has approved Pfizer/BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine, the first to be given the green light in the country and expected to be rolled out from March, the government announced Wednesday.
“The provisional approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is a positive step in New Zealand’s fight against Covid-19. It means we can now begin preparations for the first stage in our vaccination rollout,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement.
Regulator Medsafe granted nine-months’ provisional approval for the company to meet nearly 60 conditions, such as supplying more data from its global clinical trials as they progress, and monthly safety reports. Provisional approval is not uncommon in the country and a similar move was made in Australia.
“Medsafe’s decision is the culmination of a rigorous assessment process over many months to ensure the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is safe and effective to use here. It is informed by the most up to date medical and scientific data. We can have confidence in their decision,” Ardern said.
The first batch of 450,000 doses out of the 1.5 million purchased by New Zealand is expected by the end of March, with frontline staff including border workers and their households, managed isolation facility employees, and airline and hotel staff to the first to be inoculated.
Most of the population of about 5 million people will be immunized in the second half of the year.
“New Zealand is in a fortunate position in not having any current community outbreaks or transmission of Covid-19. Those most at risk of getting Covid-19 will receive the vaccine first, with the broader community accessing the vaccine from the second half of the year,” Ardern added.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said vaccination of border workers was expected to take two weeks.
Australia’s Lowy Institute think tank recently rated Ardern’s government as first in the world for its management of the epidemic. The government has also been internationally applauded for its early and strong handling of the coronavirus, keeping international borders closed since March and locking down the country when it had just 50 confirmed cases.
New Zealand has accumulated around 2,300 cases and 25 deaths since the start of the pandemic. EFE-EPA