Wellington, July 29 (IANS) New Zealand's regulatory authority Medsafe on Thursday granted provisional approval of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine for individuals aged 18 and above.
New Zealand secured 7.6 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, enough for 3.8 million people, through an advance purchase agreement with the company last year, Acting Minister for Covid-19 Response Ayesha Verrall said in a statement.
"The AstraZeneca vaccine is one of four purchase agreements we have with pharmaceutical companies for Covid-19 vaccines. We took a portfolio approach to manage the risk that some vaccines might not complete trials or be approved for use in New Zealand," Xinhua news agency quoted Verrall as saying.
"We are in a fortunate position to now have three vaccines receive provisional approval. Cabinet is yet to consider whether to use the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in New Zealand," she said.
However, this is an important step towards enabling the donation of AstraZeneca from New Zealand to Pacific countries, where we have made commitments, Verrall said.
The AstraZeneca vaccine requires two doses and is stored at normal fridge temperatures (2 to 8 degrees Celsius).
The first delivery could be as early as late August, and officials are working closely with AstraZeneca to confirm delivery schedules.
The immunisation plan in New Zealand remains focused on rolling out the Pfizer vaccine. The workforce is ramping up in line with increased deliveries, Verrall said.
"We are on track to provide two doses of the Pfizer vaccines to everyone in New Zealand who wishes to have one, by the end of this year. No one will miss out," she added.