COVID-19: Government likely to approve coronavirus vaccine in 'coming weeks' - Ashley Bloomfield

The AM Show 20/01/2021

This article was written by Newshub reporter Mark Quinlivan

The Government is likely weeks away from approving a COVID-19 vaccine but the Director-General of Health is assuring New Zealanders any jab used here will be safe and effective.

On Monday, the Ministry of Health said it was closely monitoring reports several elderly people had died in Norway after receiving the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.  

The Government has ruled out fast-tracking New Zealand's vaccine programme, with confirmation a rollout isn't expected until the second quarter of this year.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield told Newstalk ZB that medicines regulator Medsafe was "on track for providing us with approval in coming weeks".

"They are really onto it and working very closely with their Australian counterparts."

But Dr Bloomfield told The AM Show that approval wouldn't be rushed and people could have confidence in Medsafe's process.

Ashley Bloomfield. Photo credit: Getty
Ashley Bloomfield. Photo credit: Getty

"They have been getting data through from late last year and they're getting more data through all the time, including the results of what's happening in countries where people are being vaccinated.

"Yes, we are seeing people have reactions - that's completely normal. The good position we're in is we can gather all that additional data as millions of people are vaccinated around the world to help assure New Zealanders that any vaccine we use will be safe and effective."

Does the Government have its vaccine plan right?

Dr Bloomfield said when the vaccine eventually arrives in New Zealand, the Ministry of Health will be ensuring Kiwis have sufficient information.

"My hope is that as many New Zealanders as possible will choose to be vaccinated," he told The AM Show.

University of Auckland Immunisation Advisory Centre director Nikki Turner believes the Government has its vaccine plan right. 

"We should not just be suddenly rushing vaccines when we're in a very privileged position from other countries in the world," Dr Turner told Newshub on Monday. "Other countries in the world have got significant emergencies with people dying in large numbers.

"New Zealand's main focus, right now, needs to be continuing to maintain our border and our quarantine safety, and to watch for any community transmission."

The country's first vaccines aren't due to arrive until the first quarter of this year. In the meantime, Dr Bloomfield said border officials were working hard to keep the virus and any mutations out of the community.

"There's always a possibility it could slip through," he explained.

"We've got a huge amount of effort going in at the border to make sure it's as watertight as it can be but it's a big operation.

"It's a big venture - it involves 2000 or 3000 people every day."

This article was written by Newshub reporter Mark Quinlivan