The Government's decided to go all-in on the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine after securing additional doses that will enable the entire population to receive the same vaccine.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Government had now signed an advance purchase agreement for an additional 8.5 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which is enough to vaccinate 4.25 million people.
The vaccines are expected to arrive in New Zealand during the second half of the year.
“This brings our total Pfizer order to 10 million doses or enough for 5 million people to get the two shots needed to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19.”
The announcement on Monday represents a change of tack for the the Government and the vaccine strategy.
The Government’s original agreement with Pfizer was for approximately 1.5 million doses, enough to vaccinate 750,000 people.
In addition the Government had late last year said it had agreements for 5 million courses from Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen; 3.8 million courses from the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca; and 5.36 million courses from Novavax.
When announcing those agreements in December the Government said there were multiple types of vaccine technology that have been used to develop Covid-19 vaccines "and the strategy has been to purchase different types of technology, to ensure if some are found in development or in trials not to be a successful option then other alternatives will be available".
Ardern said on Monday that the decision to now make Pfizer New Zealand’s primary vaccine provider, "was based on the fact the Pfizer vaccine has been shown to be about 95% effective at preventing symptomatic infection".
"It also means all New Zealanders will have the chance to access the same vaccine.
"Whilst the Pfizer vaccine does need to be kept at ultra-cold temperatures, this challenge is offset by only having to deal with one vaccine, rather than multiple vaccines with multiple protocols.
"It will simplify our vaccine roll out."
Ardern said the purchase marks "a significant milestone" in New Zealand’s fight against Covid-19.
"We can take heart that we’ve now secured one of the strongest and more effective tools in the Covid-19 toolkit."
With every person who gets vaccinated, "New Zealand gets one step closer to moving away from restrictions to manage Covid-19".
Ardern indicated that in terms of its orders for vaccines other than the Pfizer one, it may delay purchase and delivery of some of these into 2022, though NZ will likely take on some of the other vaccines to provide options for "certain individuals".
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the Ministry of Health is now working with Pfizer on a delivery schedule for the additional Pfizer vaccines, "which will ensure a smooth rollout and a scaling up of our vaccination programme as we start to immunise the general public from the middle of the year".
Hipkins said consideration is also being given to how best to use vaccine doses that don’t end up being needed in New Zealand.
"We are working on options for donating surplus doses across our wider portfolio to the Pacific and developing countries worldwide.
“We are committed to ensuring that any doses not needed here are put to good use elsewhere. Options could include delaying delivery to New Zealand, in order to free up supply for other countries in the short-term, or donating spare vaccines to other countries.
“We are also working closely with the Realm countries of Niue, Tokelau, and the Cook Islands, as well as our close neighbours Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu to provide access to our vaccine portfolio and provide wider support for vaccine roll-out,” Hipkins said.