Booster vaccine available from end of November

Booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine will start being administered from 29 November, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today.

“Medsafe has already approved use of Pfizer as a booster for people who are 18 years or older,” Chris Hipkins said.

“Following further advice to Cabinet from the vaccine technical advisory group, today I’m announcing that the vaccination programme will start administering booster doses from 29 November.

“Vaccination is the best protection against COVID-19. Booster doses will be available free for anyone in New Zealand aged 18 or older who has completed their two dose course more than six months ago.

“And, people will be able to access boosters in New Zealand, whether they received their earlier doses here or overseas.

“I’m also confirming that 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.

“While most other countries are rationing boosters to certain groups, we have made the decision to make boosters available to everyone. That ensures simplicity and equity.

“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.

“Our healthcare and border workers are a priority group for booster vaccine doses because they’re on the front line against COVID-19 and because large numbers of them completed their vaccine course six months or longer ago. We will also be making sure older people including people in residential care have good access to booster doses when they become eligible.

“We’re particularly keen to make sure those groups are aware that the booster programme is about to kick off, and that they’re eligible.

“There are currently 144,000 people in New Zealand who have been vaccinated for six months and 455,847 who will be by the end of the year.”

Chris Hipkins added that New Zealanders topping up their personal armour against COVID-19 with one of the most highly effective vaccines available has another benefit. It will also support the Protection Framework when this replaces the Alert Level system.

“Combining the Protection Framework with the booster programme will reduce the risk of severe disease caused by COVID-19, reduce the burden on hospitals and other healthcare providers, and protect those at high occupational risk of exposure.

“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.

“Of course, we also need to remember to keep on with the other simple steps for staying safe, such as distancing, using face coverings, scanning and staying at home if sick.

“I also want to stress that while the booster programme is an exciting next step in our pandemic response, increasing the vaccination coverage of first and second doses, particularly for Māori and Pacific people, remains the Government’s number one priority in our nationwide vaccination rollout.

“Please encourage your whānau and friends to get vaccinated.”

Key points:

  • Vaccination clinics, pharmacies and GPs will provide booster doses from the end of November.
  • You will be able use the book my vaccine website to book a free booster vaccine dose from 26 November.
  • Boosters are strongly recommended for anyone who has had their second dose at least six months ago.
  • Booster doses are not currently required for the public to get a vaccine certificate for access to events, gyms, churches, hairdressers, and other services and premises.
  • For people who are immuno-suppressed and receiving a third dose of Pfizer as part of their primary vaccinations, they will need to wait at least six months after the third dose.