16 Apr 2021

Government not rejigging immunisation roll-out after 'speculation' third Pfizer shot needed

3:33 pm on 16 April 2021

New Zealand is not rejigging its Covid-19 immunisation programme despite predictions people will need a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine within 12 months.

Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.

Photo: AFP

Speaking to CNBC this morning, Pfizer chief executive Albert Bourla said a booster would "likely" be needed six months to a year after the second jab.

In a statement, Medsafe group manager Chris James told RNZ the "speculation" was not yet backed by data and so had "no impact" on the roll-out.

"Discussion of booster doses is speculation at this time and we have no data at present that determines whether a booster of the Pfizer vaccine might be needed," he said.

"This is an area of intense study at the moment."

New Zealand has secured 10 million doses from Pfizer, the country's primary vaccine provider. The latest figures show just over 100,000 people have been vaccinated, of which about 30,000 have received two jabs.

Border workers have been eligible to be vaccinated since mid-February, but the wider population roll-out will not begin until July.

James said he expected Pfizer to provide the regulator with any new findings from its clinical trials about both the duration of protection and the vaccine's impact on preventing transmission.

"New Zealand stands ready to receive and consider this information through MedSafe's established process."

During CNBC's panel discussion, Bourla also said it was possible people would eventually require an annual jab, like the flu vaccine.

"A likely scenario is that there will be likely a need for a third dose - somewhere between six and 12 months - and then from there there will be an annual revaccination, but all of that needs to be confirmed," he said.

"And again, the variants will play a key role."

Earlier this month, Pfizer said initial data showed its vaccine was more than 91 percent effective up to six months after the second dose.

However, researchers said more data was needed to determine if that protection lasted beyond six months.

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