Minister urges patience over vaccine rollout

Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone.

The Minister for COVID-19 Response says patience is required over the roll-out of New Zealand's first COVID-19 vaccines, but that the government will ensure no lags in the process.

Chris Hipkins told Morning Report it's unlikely the government will use emergency provisions to push it through as fast as other countries.

"We want to be vaccinating people as fast as we can in New Zealand. That's why we're buying a different range of vaccines and getting a portfolio of vaccines, getting them here as fast as we can.

"The distribution chain is something we have already started working on. We have got new equipment underway and being ordered and being supplied so we can administer vaccines."

The minister's comments come after news the UK approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 drug for emergency use, becoming the the first country in the word to license a vaccination.

British health secretary Matt Hancock expresses confidence in the regulatory process that gives clearance for hospitals to start rolling out mass immunisations from as early as next week.

However, Hipkins says there isn't the same rush to approve a vaccine in New Zealand.

"I guess, as a humanitarian, one of the things I look at here as well is some of the highest pressure is going to be coming from those countries where people are dying," he says.

"We are in a slightly different position to other countries who are using emergency provisions to approve the vaccine and in many cases those countries are doing that because they are suffering hugely from COVID, with thousands of people dying every day."

But Hipkins gives an assurance that New Zealand's approval process will be completed without any administrative or legislative lags, in readiness for the first shipments of vaccines arriving.

The vaccines will be approved before arrival and he reaffirms March as the approximate date of administration. Storage and other equipment is currently being sourced and distributed.

New Zealanders will be vaccinated with a range of products. So far two have been announced - Pfizer and Janssen.

Pzifer's product could be in the country as early as March and is a two-dose vaccine that would cover 750,000 people.

Janssen's requires just one injection but would not get here until closer to September, with two million initial doses and more to follow if needed.

The drugs not completed clinical trials and would only be administered when proven to be safe, Hipkins says.

Data from other trials across the world will be used to inform decision-making in New Zealand's approval process, he adds.

Clinical trials will help determine who will get the vaccines first. Different vaccines, depending on their properties, could be tailored to different groups.

"We will be looking at evidence from the clinical trials as to efficacy, how effective the vaccines are for different population groups and whether there is risk, for example, so we'll look at all of that."

The government has bought nine large super-cold (-70 C) freezers to store the Pzifer vaccine and is getting 40 smaller ones so it can be stored in different places when it is rolled out.

The Janssen one only needs ordinary refrigeration.


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Guinea pigs

Posted on 06-12-2020 08:24 | By Slim Shady

At the risk of being negative and cynical, this Phizer one needs to be stored at -70 and then has to thawed, diluted and used in a timely manner whilst it "remains stable". They haven’t said what happens if it goes unstable or the dilution is done wrong. Given New Zealand’s record on safety with workplace incidents and the road toll plus events like Pike River, CTV, Christchurch shootings, White Island plus the MoH and the flu vaccine debacle, I think I might wait for a point and shoot vaccine that a poorly trained monkey could administer. I’m sure plenty will have faith in the regime and duly line up. Good on them. Then again, plenty line up each week to pray to god, so facts and reality seem to be flexible.


Posted on 04-12-2020 19:46 | By Kancho

Never let the facts stand in the way of a good dose of cynicism and negatively just for the same of it. I will remain grateful to be in New Zealand and we will get vaccines in the coming year as several will be available thanks to overseas science on whom we rely. We are still a small country and because of that and our management of covid we will not be the first to get vaccinated global priorities aplly. Our plight is less dire but the vaccine will make a big difference by the end of next year as science says it will take a lot time yet to get enough up take, over 60 percent of the population according to American scientists

Oh Kancho

Posted on 03-12-2020 15:38 | By Slim Shady

Being grateful is irrelevant. I am “cynical”, as you put it, with good reason based on how governments and politicians have lied many times over history. Governments and politicians twist and turn and hide the facts and the truth. Some people nod along as it is more comforting to believe than not. Some people question them. If they had wanted to roll this vaccine out in a few weeks they could have. If they had prepared for it. They are making excuses for their own naivety and failings. They made a big fuss about signing “the deal” but started backpedaling soon after. George Bernard Shaw said, “the power of accurate observation is often called cynicism by those who have not got it”. This vaccine won’t be coming to this country so you and I will both be waiting for one “more suited to Kiwi needs”.

Tom Ranger

Posted on 03-12-2020 15:02 | By Tom Ranger

Makes more sense to let other worse hit nations get priority anyway.

Oh Slim

Posted on 03-12-2020 13:29 | By Kancho

Your intricate knowledge of all knowing that we don’t have the ability to handle vaccination? I for one am grateful that a vaccine has been developed by advanced science overseas on our behalf. I’m also grateful we have largely been kept safe in New Zealand. As there are various vaccines becoming available I’m more confident we will get vaccinated as we do every year for other lesser strains of flu. I fully expected to have to wait well into next year but at least light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully by next Christmas we will be in a better position. Things this big game time . I remain grateful and refuse cynicism without real facts

Smoke and mirrors

Posted on 03-12-2020 12:04 | By Slim Shady

The truth is NZ doesn’t have the equipment and did not get it in. This is despite Phizer making it, at their risk, months ago. So, we are dragging our feet and pretending to play catch-up by making these lame excuses but the truth is this vaccine won’t be coming. In a few months they will announce that we are going to have to wait for one that doesn’t need -70 storage. They just won’t tell the truth.

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