Wellington [New Zealand], January 26 (ANI/Xinhua): The green light for New Zealand's first COVID-19 vaccine could be granted in just over a week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday.
"We're making swift progress towards vaccinating New Zealanders against the virus, but we're also absolutely committed to ensuring the vaccines are safe and effective," Ardern told a press conference.
Medicines regulator Medsafe will seek advice and recommendations from the Medicines Assessment Advisory Committee (MAAC) next Tuesday, about the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine, Ardern said.
"The ministerial expert advisory committee will review Medsafe's benefit-risk assessment of the pharmaceutical company's data, and depending on feedback, Medsafe may be able to grant provisional approval as soon as the following day," she said.
"Medsafe's process not only ensures New Zealanders can feel confident in the vaccines we receive, it's also been timely and means we will be ready to receive and administer vaccines as soon as Pfizer is in a position to send them," said the prime minister.
COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said COVID-19 vaccines will play a critical role in protecting New Zealanders' health and wellbeing and, over time, will be a big step back to normality.
The first focus will be vaccinating the border and managed isolation and quarantine workforce and their close contacts, Hipkins said, adding, "Once the vaccine arrives in New Zealand, we expect to be able to complete vaccinating this group within two to three weeks."
He said the government hopes to start vaccinating the wider population mid-year.
"However, if Medsafe decides next week that some additional assurances are required before it grants approval, I accept their decision and am satisfied that it's the right decision on behalf of all of us," Hipkins said.
"It streamlined its approval processes for faster access, but it hasn't cut any corners along the way," he said. (ANI/Xinhua)