The Government has confirmed an "in-principle" agreement to buy enough Covid vaccines for the whole population.
The agreement, with Janssen Pharmaceutica, a division of pharma giant Johnson & Johnson, is for up to 5 million vaccines. This is likely to be a single-dose vaccine.
The terms of the deal are for the first doses, up to 2 million of them, to be delivered from the third quarter of 2021.
This news, announced by Minister of Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods, follows on from the recent announcement that the Government would purchase 1.5 million doses of vaccine – enough for 750,000 people – from Pfizer and BioNTech.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine could possibly be delivered in the first quarter of next year.
Also on Thursday, the day on which mask wearing became mandatory on Auckland public transport and on planes, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins, said new testing measures were being put in place to increase the safety of border workers and further strengthen New Zealand’s barriers against Covid-19. The rules extend testing to workers not previously covered and increase the frequency of testing for some higher risk workers.
Woods said the fact the Janssen vaccine was likely to be a single-dose vaccine means "it may potentially be more efficient to administer”.
The vaccine is currently in phase 3 trials. Results from the first two phases apparently found that a single dose of the vaccine showed a good immune response in humans.
This is the announcement from Woods:
The Government has confirmed an in-principle agreement to purchase up to 5 million COVID-19 vaccines – enough for 5 million people – from Janssen Pharmaceutica, subject to the vaccine successfully completing clinical trials and passing regulatory approvals in New Zealand, says Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods.
“This agreement forms part of our portfolio approach to ensure that we have the ability to access a range of vaccine options, if and when a suitable vaccine is developed and approved,” says Megan Woods.
“It is an initial agreement with Janssen Pharmaceutica, and we expect a formal advance purchase agreement to be finalised in coming weeks.
“The agreement with Janssen would see the first doses – up to 2 million – delivered from the third quarter of 2021. We have the option to purchase up to 3 million additional doses, which would be delivered throughout 2022.
“A key point of difference for the Janssen vaccine is that it’s likely to be a single-dose vaccine and is compatible with standard vaccine distribution channels, so it may potentially be more efficient to administer.”
Megan Woods said Janssen, along with its parent company Johnson & Johnson, have a very strong track record producing safe and effective pharmaceutical products for use globally and in New Zealand.
“This gives us confidence in their ability to develop, manufacture and deliver a safe and effective vaccine,” Megan Woods said
This announcement follows the Government’s recent agreement to purchase 1.5 million doses of vaccine – enough for 750,000 people – from Pfizer and BioNTech, and works alongside other aspects of the COVID-19 Vaccine Strategy, including membership of the global COVAX Facility.
Megan Woods said negotiations with other pharmaceutical companies are progressing well.
“The COVID-19 Vaccine Strategy Taskforce are working to ensure that additional agreements are in place to complete the vaccine portfolio. Our main priority is to make sure New Zealand and our Pacific neighbours have access to safe and effective vaccines.
The Ministry of Health is preparing for a range of vaccine scenarios and how best to sequence the delivery of vaccines once supply becomes available. Three broad considerations are being explored:
- Those at risk of contracting COVID-19
- Those at risk of spreading COVID-19
- Those at risk of increased morbidity and mortality associated with COVID-19.
Ensuring equity of outcomes, including protection for Māori, Pacific peoples and our most vulnerable population groups, such as older people, disabled people, health workers, essential workers and border staff are some of our primary considerations in the availability of vaccines.
And this is the announcement from Hipkins:
New testing measures are being put in place to increase the safety of border workers and further strengthen New Zealand’s barriers against COVID-19, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today.
“These strengthened rules – to apply to all international airports and ports – build on the mandatory testing orders we’ve been implementing since August and will make our border safety even stronger. They are the latest steps in the Government’s extensive and ongoing programme to develop and refine our COVID-19 response,” Chris Hipkins said.
“The rules extend testing to workers not previously covered and increase the frequency of testing for some higher risk workers
·Increasing the frequency of testing for ship pilots and some other port workers who carry out work on affected ships, from fortnightly to weekly,
·Increasing testing frequency for some workers who carry out work on aircraft that have arrived from outside of New Zealand, from fortnightly to weekly.
·Mandatory fortnightly testing for port workers not already covered,
·Mandatory fortnightly testing for airport airside and landside workers not already covered who interact with international arriving or transiting passengers,
“This Order, the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Required Testing) Amendment Order (No 3) 2020, also clarifies the expectations of both employers and employees who are subject to the mandatory testing orders.
“Employers will be expected to keep records about their employees’ testing requirements and their compliance, and facilitate employee testing. Employees will be expected to provide information to their employers for record-keeping purposes,” Chris Hipkins said.
“I’d like again to pay tribute to the people who work at our ports and airports and managed isolation and quarantine facilities. They are some of the real heroes of our COVID-19 response.
“Our border workers are among the most scrutinised and tested people in the country.
They are doing an incredible job, day in and day out, keeping COVID-19 out of our community. In return, we must do everything we can to keep them safe.”
These requirements come into force from midnight on 26 November 2020.