Read about the latest COVID-19 announcements below.
You can also find more information and resources on the Ministry of Health website here.
COVID-19 vaccine booster
The Government announced that people will be able to access a Pfizer COVID-19 booster dose from Monday 29 November.
COVID Vaccination Technical Advisory Group advises that current evidence shows that immunity produced by the Pfizer vaccine wanes over time, particularly from 6 months after a primary vaccination course.
A booster dose can restore the protection provided by the original primary vaccination course and reduce the COVID-19 burden on hospitals and healthcare workers.
Healthcare and border workers are a priority group for booster vaccine doses as they are at the front-line of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and because large numbers of healthcare workers completed their primary vaccination course at least 6 months ago.
Some DHBs may choose to make special arrangements or clinics for their staff. We will also be making sure older people and kaumatua, including people in residential care, have good access to booster doses when they become eligible.
A booster vaccine dose will be available for anyone who completed their vaccination course at least 6 months prior to their planned booster dose either in New Zealand or overseas. Communications will be clear that two doses provide good protection, including after 6 months, and booster doses are not urgent.
People can access a booster dose as a walk-in to vaccination clinics, or by making an appointment with a COVID-19 vaccinating GP, or by using the book my vaccine website.
The Pfizer vaccine is the preferred vaccine being used in New Zealand for booster doses, regardless of what vaccine was used for earlier doses.
Currently, booster doses will not be mandatory for workers who are required to be vaccinated, or to get a vaccine certificate used to access events, gyms, churches, hairdressers, and other services and premises.
The booster is different to the third primary dose recommended for severely immunocompromised consumers. People eligible for a third primary dose can access a booster dose six months after receiving their third primary dose.
Mandatory vaccination order
The mandatory vaccination order has been gazetted.
The extended COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Amendment Order 2021 comes into effect at 11.59pm on 25 October, requiring workers who face a high risk of exposure to COVID-19 and who work in the health and disability and education sectors or in prisons to be fully vaccinated. Because of the nature of their work, these groups are all at particular risk of being infected with COVID-19, and of passing it on to the vulnerable groups they work with, as well as whānau, and members of the wider community.
More information is available on the Ministry of Health website.
Deadlines for vaccination
The Government has pushed back the deadlines for healthcare workers to have received their first and second doses of the Covid-19 vaccine. Any health and disability workers (employed or voluntary, private and public) must now receive their first dose of the vaccine by 11.59pm 15 November 2021. They must receive their second dose by 1 January 2022.
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
You will be aware the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Amendment Order (No3) 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.
Purchase of additional doses of Pfizer vaccine
The government signed a purchase agreement for 4.7 million additional doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
These doses will complement the portfolio of vaccines scheduled for delivery throughout 2022.
This agreement will provide a continual supply of the Pfizer vaccine next year for those who did not access a vaccine in 2021.
It will also provide vaccines if the eligibility is extended to include children aged 5 to 11 year olds, and for a potential booster programme, if evidence determines this is required.
These doses will also support ongoing immunisation efforts in the Pacific and Fiji, should more population groups become eligible or if booster doses are required.
The Ministry of Health are now publishing the number of vaccines needed to get your DHB to 90% on this webpage.
This same page houses the latest vaccine data through to 26 October COVID-19 vaccination data through 26 Oct 2021 (Excel, 363 KB).
Manaakitanga journey tool
A new tool to support disabled people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 was launched yesterday by the Minister for Disability Issues Carmel Sepuloni (and promoted via the PM’s Insta account last night). It was developed with input from the disability sector and community, the Office for Disability Issues, and the Ministry of Health and DHBs. The tool (screenshot below) is available as a .pdf, Word document and a .png file.
The Unite Against COVID-19 website will be updated weekly with Super Accessible sites and centres for disabled people to get vaccinated and will also contain consolidated information specifically for disabled people and those who have underlying health conditions, such as supported decision making, a list of accessible vaccination centres near you, arranging transport and information in alternative formats.
Vaccine safety resources
The final episode of NZ Vaccine Facts (featuring the voice of Jim Moriarty) is available at: Covid19.govt.nz/VaccineFacts
Episode 8: What else we can do to protect ourselves and others?
Vaccination will help us get back to doing the things we love. But keep carrying out these simple steps so we stay on top of outbreaks: stay home if you are unwell and get a test, keep scanning in to keep track of where you have been, wear a face covering in situations where the virus could spread easily (like on public transport), and wash your hands regularly.
You can also enjoy watching the entire series from go to woah (just under 14 mins total) via the UAC YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLvwEBGntcGmFcCL8_JscJK9rzeghzYqfF. You can also download and/or share – all the episodes (captioned), A3 posters and a GIF (on overcoming a phobia of needles), from the COVID-19 Resource Toolkit. Please make use of this complete series to inform and encourage those still undecided or hesitant about the importance of getting vaccinated. Here’s the full suite:
- COVID-19 and why vaccinations are important
- What is a virus and how do vaccines work?
- What is an mRNA vaccine?
- Do vaccines work when a virus changes?
- Are vaccines safe?
- What are the benefits of vaccination
- How to get a vaccine and are there side effects?
- What else can we do to protect ourselves and others?
Provisional approval for Pfizer vaccine extended
The provisional approval has been extended for two years, until 3 November 2023.
Provisional approval means the pharmaceutical company must meet certain conditions, including supplying more data from its clinical trials around the world as they progress.
By renewing the provisional approval, the Ministry of Health will continue to receive and assess data from Pfizer about the administration of the vaccine around the world.
To date, Pfizer has met all the conditions of the provisional approval granted in February 2021. As a result, this renewal removes a large number of these original conditions.
The remaining conditions relate to ongoing supply of clinical trial data, batch testing information and ongoing requirements for monitoring the use of the vaccine globally and reporting to Medsafe.
Medsafe will continue to receive and assess information from Pfizer about the use of the vaccine.
With the current provisional approval, Medsafe can decide to grant full approval at any point in the next two years if and when Pfizer has submitted an application and provided the information required (including for all age ranges).
In renewing the provisional consent, Medsafe confirms that the benefits of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine outweigh the risks.
Provisional Consent renewal is routine and has been applied previously to other medicines.