COVID-19 vaccines

Pharmac is now responsible for the management of COVID-19 vaccines. This includes funding, procurement, and supply.

COVID-19 vaccine access criteria

COVID-19 vaccines remain free and available to eligible people aged 6 months and over. You can find the criteria for first and additional doses of the vaccine on Health New Zealand's website. There will be public consultation before any change to these criteria.

How many COVID vaccines to get and when – Health NZ(external link)

COVID-19 vaccines additional doses (boosters) – Health NZ(external link)

Pharmac's role

Management of COVID-19 vaccines transferred to Pharmac from Ministry of Health (Manatū Hauora) from 1 July 2023. Pharmac's budget has been adjusted to cover the COVID-19 vaccines. These were funded separately before.

Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora remains responsible for the vaccination programme.

How many people have been vaccinated?

More than 13 million doses have been administered. For the latest information on how many people have been vaccinated:

Health NZ – COVID-19 vaccines data(external link)

Medsafe is the regulator

Medsafe makes sure medicines meet international and local standards for quality, safety, and efficacy. This includes the COVID-19 vaccine. Only if medicines meet these standards will Medsafe recommend them for use in New Zealand.

Medsafe also collects information on the safety of medicines used in New Zealand, including vaccines.

Medsafe – COVID-19 vaccines(external link)

COVID-19 vaccination programmes – 2024 & beyond

XBB.1.5 strain vaccine

On 30 May 2024, paediatric Comirnaty XBB.1.5 vaccine was introduced for babies and children aged 6 months to 11 years of age.

In January 2024, Medsafe approved Pfizer's Comirnaty brand vaccine to combat newer strains of COVID-19. It became available to New Zealanders from 7 March 2024. 

Media release: COVID-19 vaccine available in March

The updated Nuvaxovid XBB.1.5 vaccine is being evaluated by Medsafe(external link). The previous stock of the Nuvaxovid COVID-19 vaccine supplied by Novavax, expired at the end of April 2024.

Keeping up with changes to COVID-19 vaccines

The World Health Organization and some overseas regulators recommended updates to COVID-19 vaccine composition. This is a similar process to the yearly flu vaccine composition update, that happens globally.

World Health Organization's statement on the antigen composition of COVID-19 vaccines as of 13 December 2023(external link)

Pharmac's approach to funding new COVID-19 vaccines will consider international recommendations on the composition and those that have Medsafe approval.

Medsafe's COVID-19 vaccine strain update application procedure(external link)

Pharmac will continue to work with suppliers to ensure that vaccines supplied to New Zealand follow Medsafe guidance, especially on timeliness of distribution.

Purchasing COVID-19 vaccines – 2020 

In 2020, the COVID-19 Vaccine Strategy Taskforce was established. In late 2020 / early 2021, agreements were reached with four vaccine suppliers, representing different vaccine technologies. This helped supply start in early 2021.

The agreements were with:

  • Pfizer/BioNTech
  • Novavax
  • Janssen
  • University of Oxford/AstraZeneca

Ministry of Health released a summary of these agreements, including the circumstance that they were negotiated in. 

Summary statement on New Zealand's COVID-19 vaccine procurement process and contracts with suppliers(external link)

Pfizer/BioNTech and Novavax vaccines continue to be available in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Future vaccine purchasing

We have sought funding applications for vaccines that provide protection against COVID-19. Applications closed at the end of 2023.

We will use the applications to consider options for future procurement and supply. Pharmac will use its usual assessment process, including seeking clinical advice on the applications in the first half of 2024.  

Vaccines continue to be available for eligible people.

Call for funding applications for vaccines providing protection against COVID-19

Pharmac’s assessment process explained

Who to contact

If you have questions about Pharmac's COVID-19 vaccine purchasing, email