Pfizer vaccine arrives in Japan

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Deliveries are expected weekly, with a batch in the low tens of thousands delivered within the first consignment.

Today's announcement comes after growing pressure around why it was taking New Zealand so long to get doses for front-line border staff when millions are already being dished out around the world.

The drugmaker has started making messenger RNA at the site, kicking off the manufacturing process for its Pfizer-partnered COVID-19 vaccine.

Brussels has ordered a total of 600 million doses of the so-called Comirnaty vaccine from BioNTech and Pfizer.

Use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was signed off by the Government on Wednesday. The authorisation by Cabinet ministers came after the vaccine was given provisional approval by Medsafe last week.

The Prime Minister said it was hoped NZ's border workers could be vaccinated within three weeks of the vaccine's arrival.

The vaccine is able to be stored at a higher temperature - 2C-8C - for up to five days and still be effective.

"Our first priority is out border workers, our first line of defence who interact with returnees who may potentially have the virus every day".

The first batch of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine will arrive next week, and vaccination of border workers is expected to start next Saturday.

Now, when the country starts its inoculation campaign on February 17, health workers will have to discard the sixth dose of vaccine in every bottle, Katsunobu Kato, the government spokesman, said.

Each person receiving the Pfizer/BioNTech jab needs to receive two shots.

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"This will be New Zealand's largest ever vaccination campaign".

However, Ms Ardern said the vaccination programs would have no immediate impact on the stalled trans-Tasman travel "bubble".

"It is going to take all the year to reach everyone, so the sequence in ordering is important".

"Since the vaccine is precious, many countries are trying to get six doses per vial", said Dr. Eji Kusumi, who runs the Navitas clinic in Tokyo.

The Government will only take ownership of the vaccines once they are transferred to its fridges, and Hipkins was unable to comment on how Pfizer was transporting the batches. We appreciate the effort the company has gone to to deliver the first instalment earlier than originally anticipated.

Meanwhile, South Africa is proceeding with its immunisation campaign with Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine after preliminary trial data showing the AstraZeneca shot does not significantly reduce the risk of mild-to-moderate illness caused by the more contagious 501Y.V2 variant first identified late previous year in the country. The timeline was this year updated to the first quarter.

In early March, cafes, restaurants and hotels will be reopened if at least four million Israelis have received their second dose of the vaccine, among other criteria.

New Zealand Medical Association chairwoman Dr Kate Baddock says the vaccine is the next step in dealing with the pandemic.

The syringes are a specialty product for which demand is usually low, and the rollout of the Pfizer vaccine has set off a scramble among other countries to get more of the syringes.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said vaccinations would start from the middle of next week.

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