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New Zealand approves Pfizer or BioNTech vaccines for use in the country

Wellington: On Wednesday, New Zealand authorised the use of  Pfizer or  BioNTech Covid-19  vaccine for emergencies expecting to receive the first shipment by April. With this it becomes  the first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved in the country.

The regulators' (Medsafe) approval is the culmination of a rigorous assessment process over several months to ensure that the Pfizer or BioNTech vaccine is safe and effective to use. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern quoted in a press release, “It is informed by the most up to date medical and scientific data and we have confidence in their decision."

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins stated, “Frontline medical workers, border staff and risk groups will receive the shots first. He added, "We expect the first Pfizer or BioNTech vaccines will arrive in New Zealand by the end of the first quarter, but we are making sure everything is in place in case there is an earlier arrival." 

According to national media, the first batch of vaccines received by the country will have 450,000 out of 1.5 million Pfizer vaccine doses. The island nation also has contracts with other vaccine manufacturers too like Janssen, AstraZeneca and Novovax. 

With vaccination drives being processed under dozens of countries, including the United States, India and China, pressure has been mounting on Jacinda Ardern to start inoculations for the country's 5 million citizens.

Opposition party leaders accuse that New Zealand has fallen behind the rest of the world and risked losing its advantage after virtually eliminating COVID-19 through a tough lockdown and border closures.

New Zealand's Health Chief Ashley Bloomfield said that the country's regulators have placed 58 conditions for the approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine related to additional manufacturing data and ensuring information is provided on any safety concerns elsewhere.

Putting all the conflicts to rest Jacinda said, “2021 is the year of the vaccine. It's a full-year programme we have only just begun. We're not in a race to be first, but to ensure safe and timely access to vaccines for all New Zealanders." 

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