Scientists have hailed the Government's latest vaccine purchases, saying it will give New Zealand not only enough doses for every Kiwi, but also back-ups in case one vaccine fails.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern today announced the Government had agreed to purchase 7.6 million doses from AstraZeneca - enough to vaccinate 3.8 million people - and 10.72 million doses from Novavax, enough for 5.36 million people.
That came after deals to buy 1.5 million doses of Pfizer and BioNTech's vaccine - covering 750,000 people - and an in-principle agreement to purchase up to five million Covid-19 vaccines from Janssen Pharmaceutica.
"Today's announcement of the purchase of enough Covid-19 vaccine doses to vaccinate every New Zealander, and some of our Pacific neighbours, is very good news," University of Auckland infectious diseases expert Associate Professor Siouxsie Wiles said.
"The Government have taken the wise approach to invest in a portfolio of vaccines that have been developed using a range of technologies."
The portfolio now includes several vaccine types, including mRNA, viral vectors, and a protein subunit vaccine.
"This is important because each technology has different advantages and disadvantages, and some vaccines will be more acceptable to some communities than others," Wiles said.
Some may yet also fail to be found to be effective enough to roll out in New Zealand, she said.
"The fact that Medsafe are accepting rolling submissions of safety and efficacy data also means that New Zealanders can be assured that there will be no unnecessary delays in authorising the vaccines should that data prove they are safe and effective."
Otago University's Professor David Murdoch, who is a member of the Covid-19 Vaccine Strategy Taskforce, said the mix of vaccines now available aligned with the approach other countries had taken.
"This will be by far New Zealand's largest ever immunisation roll out, requiring the alignment of multiple systems to ensure successful and safe coverage," Murdoch said.
"Today's announcement indicated that the programme is progressing well, but this will required continued focused effort for some time to come."
Professor Graham Le Gros, director of Malaghan Institute of Medical Research, also added having options would mean the country wouldn't be caught out if one of the vaccines failed.
"The careful process being followed before roll out will mean that nothing is being rushed and the vaccines will only be administered once all the safety data has been reviewed by NZ's regulatory agency Medsafe, and the personnel and resources are in place for the actual vaccine," he said.
"This is good news for New Zealand and the Pacific."
Wiles said the big question now was how safe and effective the different vaccines would be.
"While data on safety looks really good, the scientific community are still waiting to see all of the data for how well each vaccine prevents transmission of the Covid-19 virus as well as preventing severe disease," she said.
"That will determine how the vaccines should be rolled out in New Zealand and when it will be safe to open our borders again."
Otago University epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker said the vaccines would make it much easier for New Zealand to sustain its elimination status, as it moved from using measures like quarantine to counter the virus, to immunisation.
"It is important that this announcement doesn't add to complacency about the pandemic threat," Baker said.
"New Zealand is now entering a high risk period over summer when we will continue to see large numbers of imported cases arriving into our managed isolation and quarantine facilities from overseas countries where the pandemic is still increasing."