The rollout of booster vaccination shots will start from November 29 and anyone aged 18 and over will be able to get a booster once six months have passed since their second dose.
Covid-19 Minister Chris Hipkins announced the details of the boosters programme today, saying the Pfizer vaccine had already been approved as a booster in people who were 18 years or older.
The booster shots would be free, and the minimum six-month gap between the second of the two-shot vaccination and the booster was based on advice from the vaccine technical advisory group.
The boosters would be available for anybody in New Zealand, whether or not they were first vaccinated here or overseas.
Booster shots would be available at vaccination clinics, pharmacies and GPs, and could also be booked through the online Book My Vaccine website.
While boosters were “strongly recommended” for those who had their second shots more than six months ago, they were not yet required under the upcoming vaccinations pass system.
“People are eligible to take up the offer of a booster once six months have passed since their second dose, but there’s no need to rush to get the booster.
The science shows fully vaccinated people remain really well protected from infection, and from being seriously ill if they do get Covid-19.”
The announcement follows calls for the boosters to start after research overseas showed Pfizer’s effectiveness against infection from Delta waned as time went on.
The first vaccinations in New Zealand were given nine months ago, in February, to border and MIQ workers, health workers and the elderly and immuno-suppressed.
Hipkins said there were now 144,000 people who had been vaccinated for six months or more. 455,847 would hit that mark by the end of the year.
Many healthcare and border workers would be among that group because most had their first vaccinations more than six months ago.
Efforts would also be made to ensure older people, who were also vaccinated early under the vaccine rollout, had good access to the boosters.
However, they would not be rationed or reserved only for those higher risk groups.
Hipkins said some other countries were rationing boosters for certain groups, but they would be available to everybody here.
“That ensures simplicity and equity.”
People who are immuno-suppressed and receiving a third dose of Pfizer as part of their primary vaccinations will need to wait at least six months after the third dose before getting a booster.
Hipkins also confirmed Pfizer had been chosen for the boosters programme – earlier the Government had said it was waiting for advice on the effectiveness of different vaccines as booster shots.
“The Pfizer vaccine will be used for boosters, regardless of which vaccine was used for earlier doses. It’s the same Pfizer vaccine used for the first two doses in the vaccination rollout.”
Hipkins said the boosters would be an important part of the new traffic lights system, reducing the risk of severe disease and the burden on the health system.
“And it will give us even greater confidence that, as we transition to a world where we’re freer to move, live and work with less disruption, we can remain protected from Delta.”
He said in the short term, increasing the vaccination coverage of first and second doses, particularly for Māori and Pacific people, remained the Government’s number one priority.
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