Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says New Zealand doesn't need vaccines as urgently as other countries - though everything is being done to have them here as quickly as possible.
His comments follow the approval in the UK of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, with officials saying it will be made available "from next week".
The move, a major step toward ending the pandemic, makes the UK one of the first countries to begin vaccinating its population as it tries to curb Europe's deadly virus outbreak.
Other countries aren't far behind. The US and the European Union also are vetting the Pfizer shot, along with a similar vaccine made by competitor Moderna Inc.
New Zealand has a purchase agreement for 1.5 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine - enough for 750,000 people - but they are not expected to arrive until March next year.
A Janssen vaccine, which requires just one injection, is expected to arrive in New Zealand in September next year.
Hipkins said everything was being done to get access to vaccines as soon as possible - but "we are not completely in control of when they arrive".
"There is a global pressure point here. Everybody wants the vaccines and those countries dealing with critical emergency situations are going to be most in need in the beginning.
"They're not waiting until the end of clinical trials because they're weighing up other facts, including hundreds if not thousands of people dying of Covid-19 on a daily basis."
There were more than 16,000 new Covid cases in the UK yesterday.
The normal process was to approve vaccines following clinical trials, but some countries were cutting that corner, he said.
"Our Medsafe approval processes are already underway, and will be informed by approval processes overseas as well," Hipkins said.
Approving it now wouldn't necessarily speed up delivery, he said.
"What we want to avoid is a situation where the vaccine is ready but the New Zealand approval process still has a way to go."
Work was still underway about how vaccinated people will be treated when arriving in New Zealand, including whether they would need to be quarantined.
The Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at -70 degrees Celsius, and Hipkins said the necessary infrastructure was being set up.
"We're buying new freezers to make sure we're ready."