Evolving our approach to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments

Update Kauneke Update

As New Zealand’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has evolved, so has ours.


In October, Pharmac widened access to COVID-19 antivirals to people who are vulnerable to severe infection from COVID-19, including those with disabilities and with one or more severe health conditions.

“Antivirals can reduce the severity of illness for people most at risk from COVID-19 infection so we want to make sure the people who will benefit most are able to access them,” says Pharmac’s Director Pharmaceuticals, Geraldine MacGibbon.

The decision to widen access covers all COVID-19 antiviral treatments currently available, including nirmatrelvir with ritonavir (branded as Paxlovid) and remdesivir (branded as Veklury).

As part of Pharmac’s ongoing pandemic response, earlier this year we published a call for funding applications for vaccines that protect against COVID-19.

“We’re working closely with our Immunisation Advisory Committee, suppliers, and a range of health system partners on the equitable and sustainable delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine,” says MacGibbon. “The call for applications will inform the funding, eligibility, procurement, and supply of future COVID-19 vaccines.”

Pharmac is now fully responsible for the management of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments in New Zealand, including budget management following the inclusion of the costs of these products in the Combined Pharmaceutical Budget (CPB) from July 2023. This is the budget that covers all other publicly funded medicines and vaccines.

“We are well positioned to rapidly evaluate evidence as needed so that as new COVID-19 vaccines and treatments enter the global market, we can continue to respond swiftly to help keep our communities well,” says MacGibbon.

This story is part of our Kauneke Update 

The Kauneke Update will keep you informed on important news and progress towards Te Pātaka Whaioranga – Pharmac's strategic goals. In te reo Māori, kauneke means to develop and move forward.