Covid 19 coronavirus: Who will be first in line for the Pfizer vaccine?

Vulnerable people and frontline Covid-19 workers including border and healthcare staff will likely be the first to receive the Pfizer vaccine when it becomes available.

People more susceptible to Covid-19 include older communities as well as Māori and Pasifika, Research Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods says.

The Health Ministry was still working through the details, but Woods said there would be three priority groups: those at risk of spreading Covid, those at risk of contracting Covid, and those with increased risk of increased mortality and morbidity with Covid.

Frontline Covid-response workers fit the first category, Woods said.

“And we know in New Zealand, Māori and Pasifika identify with many of those indicators that fit into that [latter] category.

“Equity of access according to need is going to be incredibly important work in the immunisation strategy.”

Drug giant Pfizer says early results from its coronavirus vaccine suggest the shots may be a surprisingly robust 90 per cent effective at preventing Covid-19, putting the company on track to apply later this month for emergency-use approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

New Zealand is set to receive the vaccine as one of only a handful of countries with a pre-purchase agreement.

“This time last year no one had heard of Covid-19. We now have a vaccine that is 90 per cent effective that is going to be available in the first part of next year,” Woods said.

“I am optimistic and hopeful. We do have to finish the clinical trials, they have to be peer-reviewed, and we have to ensure this goes through the MedSafe process, but this is exciting news.”

New Zealand will be receiving 1.5 million doses, enough to immunise 750,000 people.

Woods said the doses will be free and reserved for New Zealand citizens here and in realm countries – the Cook Islands and Niue, Tokelau.

But the vaccine’s arrival wouldn’t necessarily mean the country’s border restrictions would be lifted, she said.

“Everybody knows that in order to open our borders, it’s not just about how safe New Zealand is, it’s about how safe the rest of the world is.

“It’s our job as a Government to ensure we are protecting New Zealanders’ health and our economy.”

The Government was already in conversation with Pfizer about getting more than 1.5 million doses, and arrangements about other vaccines are expected to be announced within weeks.

“We are not putting all our vaccine eggs in one basket,” Woods said.

“The Pfizer vaccine … is part of a suite of vaccines we will be looking at. This is the first major step but there will be others,” Woods said.

“We hope to be able to announce a couple more arrangements this side of Christmas.”

The Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at -70 degrees Celsius.

“We are making sure we have that capacity. We are not leaving anything to chance.”

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