Future supply of new COVID-19 vaccines confirmed

Joint media release from Ministry of Health – Manatū Hauora and Pharmac – Te Pātaka Whaioranga.

Media release

20 December 2023

A vaccine to combat the newer strains of COVID-19 has been approved and will be available to New Zealanders in time for winter 2024.

Today Medsafe has approved Pfizer’s application for an updated COVID-19 vaccine for the XBB.1.5 strain to be used in New Zealand says Medsafe Group Manager Chris James.

“Following a robust and efficient approval process the vaccine will be used to help reduce next year’s winter load on our hospitals”, he says. “The series of changes we see in the COVID-19 virus means we need to continually reassess and update our response to it.”

Pharmac – Te Pātaka Whaioranga has been working to secure supply of the updated vaccines in time for next winter season.

Pharmac’s Director, Pharmaceuticals Geraldine MacGibbon says it’s important to ensure we have the best available protection as we head towards the winter season. “Securing COVID-19 vaccine stock for 2024 is a high priority for Pharmac.”

“We’re working with the suppliers, Medsafe, and Health New Zealand – Te Whatu Ora, to ensure New Zealanders have access to the COVID-19 XBB.1.5 vaccine in time for people to protect themselves and their whānau ahead of winter”, says MacGibbon.

“We understand people are interested in who will have access to the COVID-19 XBB.1.5 vaccine when it’s available. There are no changes to eligibility at present. If Pharmac were to consider changes that would affect people’s access, we’d consult publicly to ensure we’re incorporating feedback from the healthcare sector and the community into our decision.”

“We will share more information on our website and with the public as it is available,” concludes MacGibbon.

Harriette Carr, Deputy Director of Public Health at Ministry of Health – Manatū Hauora, says the current COVID-19 BA.4.5 booster vaccines remain available and are effective in reducing the risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

“People are encouraged to get a booster now if due, as we are in the midst of a current COVID-19 wave. If you are due, don’t wait until next year”, says Dr Carr.

“It is important to get a booster now to protect yourself and your loved ones, especially with Covid cases currently on the rise.

“These groups in particular are recommended to get a booster:

  • people aged 65 and older,
  • Māori and Pacific people aged 50 and older,
  • those who have a medical condition that makes them severely immunocompromised (12 years of age and older),
  • pregnant people who have not had any booster dose previously, have co-morbidities, or have no history of previous COVID-19 infection,
  • residents of aged care facilities, and
  • people who were recommended to receive a booster in April 2023 but have not yet done so.”
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