On Monday 8 November, Medsafe approved a booster dose of the Pfizer Comirnaty vaccine for people aged 18 years and older, at least six months after completion of the primary course (two doses). By mid-November the COVID-19 Technical Advisory Group (CV-TAG) and the Ministry of Health will provide advice to Ministers on the use of boosters in New Zealand. This will inform their decision about how boosters will be used (including age limits and the interval between a second dose and a booster dose).
Increasing the vaccination coverage of first and second doses, particularly for Māori and Pacific people, will remain the first priority of the COVID-19 vaccination programme in New Zealand. However, CV-TAG has recommended booster doses be offered to those 18 years of age and older, who have completed their full primary vaccination course six or more months prior.
We will have details on the rollout of boosters for you next week. We expect we will be able to administer boosters to around 450,000 eligible people before Christmas. We have the capability and scale to deliver additional Pfizer vaccines, as required, quickly and efficiently.
While the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine continues to be the primary vaccine used in New Zealand, work is also underway to introduce the AstraZeneca vaccine as an alternative option.
This option will be available for people who cannot have the Pfizer for medical reasons (estimated only to be a few hundred people) and people who need to be immunised against COVID-19 because of the nature of their work (like healthcare workers), but who have other reasons not to have the Pfizer vaccine.
We expect to share more detail about the introduction of this alternative option with you next week.
Medical exemptions for vaccination
Finally, you will be aware the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Amendment Order (No 3) 2021 came into effect on Sunday 7 November. This amendment outlines how temporary medical exemptions to COVID-19 vaccination can be given. The clinical criteria, application form and decision process are all outlined on this web page and are on Health Pathways. This week we are aiming to:
- Announce the Temporary Medical Exemptions Panel appointments
- Confirm funding for applying for exemptions
- Establish a process for managing exemptions for Health & Disability Service Disruption.