COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters

OIA response

Thank you for your request under the Official Information Act 1982 (OIA) which was transferred to Pharmac from the Ministry of Health on 6 December 2023. You requested:

Below is a link to an article on the booster being used in Australia. The article advises the imminent rollout of the monovalent Pfizer vaccine which is considered a better match for the current circulating strains of SARS-CoV-2.

Under the OIA I ask is the vaccine referred to in this article the same booster available for the 65+ in NZ at present. If not ? Why Not?

What are the new COVID booster vaccines? Can I get one? Do they work? Are they safe? (

As the COVID virus continues to evolve, so does our vaccine response. From December 11, Australians will have access to new vaccines that offer better protection. These “monovalent” booster vaccines are expected to be a better match for currently circulating strains of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID. Pfizer’s monovalent vaccine will be available to eligible people aged five years and older. The Moderna monovalent vaccine can be used for those aged 12 years and older.

Who is eligible for these new boosters? How do they differ from earlier ones? Do they work? Are they safe?”

The current COVID-19 booster vaccine composition available in New Zealand for all eligible people is BA.4.5. The people who are currently eligible for a funded booster vaccine in New Zealand are:

  • Aged 30 and over
  • Pregnant, and ages 16 or over
  • Aged 12 to 29 and at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

All people eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine can access vaccines through their general practitioner (GP) or pharmacy.

Pharmac cannot comment on the safety of vaccines and medicines. However, I can advise that Medsafe approved Pfizer’s Comirnaty XBB.1.5 vaccine on 20 December 2023. Medsafe has also received an application for approval of Novavax’s Nuvaxovid vaccine targeted at XBB.1.5. Evaluation of Nuvaxovid is underway.

Medsafe evaluates applications for approval of medicines to ensure that they comply with international standards and local requirements for quality, safety, and efficacy. Only if the medicine meets these standards will Medsafe recommend approval for use in New Zealand. More information about Medsafe’s evaluation and approval process(external link) 

Information about the COVID-19 vaccine evaluation and approval process(external link) 

Please note that Pharmac are working with suppliers of the COVID-19 vaccine to secure supply of vaccine composition XBB.1.5 for New Zealand. Further information about the availability of new vaccines 

We trust that this information answers your queries. Please note, you have the right to make a complaint to the Ombudsman about our response to your OIA, under section 28(3) of the OIA. Details of how to make a complaint(external link) are on the Ombudsman’s website.

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