22 Feb 2024

Covid-19 vaccine that targets new strains available next month

11:04 am on 22 February 2024
New species of corona virus covid 19 micro cell, 3d rendering

Photo: 123RF

A Covid-19 vaccine that can fight newer strains of the virus will be rolled out from next month.

Pharmac's director of pharmaceuticals Geraldine MacGibbon said the drug funding agency had approved the transition to the updated Covid-19 vaccine for the XBB.1.5 strain from 7 March.

"We've secured stock of the XBB Covid-19 vaccine and are pleased to have it available for New Zealanders. The XBB vaccine is more effective against more recent subvariants of Covid-19 in New Zealand."

The vaccine will be free to these eligible groups:

  • everyone aged 30 years and over
  • people aged 16-29 who are pregnant
  • people aged 12-29 at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19

The director of public health for Health New Zealand Te Whatu Ora Nick Chamberlain urged anyone who was eligible to get vaccinated.

Covid-19 was not a seasonal illness and cases had risen over summer, he said.

"If you're eligible, you can get a vaccination if it's been at least six months since your last Covid-19 vaccine or if you have never had one before. It's recommended that you wait at least six months since your last Covid-19 infection."

Those particularly at risk of severe illness included:

  • people aged 65 and older
  • Māori and Pacific people aged 50 and older
  • residents of aged care facilities
  • severely immunocompromised people or others with medical conditions that make them vulnerable to complications

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs