12 Nov 2020

Govt planning under way for rollout of a Covid-19 vaccine

1:38 pm on 12 November 2020

The government has purchased several bulk freezers for storing a coronavirus vaccine after news one could be ready next year.

A health care worker holds an injection syringe of the phase 3 vaccine trial, developed against the novel coronavirus pandemic by the US Pfizer and German BioNTech company, at the Ankara University Ibni Sina Hospital in Ankara, Turkey on October 27, 2020.

A health care worker holds an injection syringe of the phase 3 vaccine trial developed by the US compay Pfizer and German firm BioNTech, at the Ankara University Ibni Sina Hospital, Turkey. Photo: AFP / Anadolu Agency

Planning is well under way for the roll out of a vaccine with the US drug company Pfizer announcing this week that its version is looking very promising.

The vaccine has to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures of minus 70C, which requires specialised refrigeration.

The Ministry of Health said it had bought "a number" of the freezers and they were due in the country by the end of the year, and had also purchased equipment for handling the vaccine, like dry ice.

The Pfizer product is not a done deal but is the strongest contender so far.

If it gets Medsafe approval it could be rolled out as early as March.

Medsafe changed its approval process to make it more efficient, allowing vaccine manufacturers to submit their information as it comes to hand, in a rolling application process.

A ministry spokesperson said Pfizer indicated it could have its final portion of data ready for assessment around March and, if successful, a vaccination programme could start shortly after.

But that could change depending on the Pfizer trials and manufacturing times, the spokesperson said.

The government's Covid-19 Immunisation Programme Governance Group, which will oversee the purchase and delivery of any vaccine, met for the first time last week.

Any vaccine would need to meet quality and safety criteria before approval, the spokesperson said.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs