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New Zealand will have the same COVID-19 vaccine as the UK

Humanitarian New Zealand on COVID vaccine go-slow
Photo: Humanitarian NZ on COVID vaccine go-slow
New Zealand has a deal with Pfizer to supply the same COVID-19 vaccines as the UK but won't be moving at the same breakneck speed as Great Britain.

New Zealand's COVID-19 minister has cited "humanitarian" reasons for not following the United Kingdom and fast-tracking approvals for vaccinations.

Kiwi experts agree New Zealand, like Australia, can sustain a longer wait for herd immunity and should take a strategic approach to its vaccination program.

On Wednesday, the UK announced it would begin COVID-19 vaccinations next week.

The UK is in the grasp of a second wave of infections and deaths; at least 1251 people have died in the first two days of December from the virus.
In contrast, New Zealand has a total COVID-19 death toll of just 25, with few cases outside its border regime since August.

With that in mind, COVID-19 minister Chris Hipkins says NZ will not follow the UK and grant emergency approvals.

"Other countries are in a different position to us," he said.

"They're speeding things up in a way that we wouldn't necessarily here based on the risks we face.

"But we are getting ready, getting geared up so that when vaccines arrive in New Zealand they are pre-approved."

On Radio NZ, Mr Hipkins suggested there was another reason New Zealand wouldn't rush to inoculate its five million citizens: compassion.

"As a humanitarian, one of the things I look at here as well is some of the highest pressure is going to be coming from those countries where people are dying," he said.

"We do have to acknowledge that."

While Mr Hipkins insisted he would move "as fast as we can", vaccinologists and epidemiologists suggest a slower, tactical approach would be wiser.

David Murdoch, University of Otago dean and an internationally renowned epidemiologist, said "vaccine nationalism" was a concern.

"There is an equity issue in the world," Dr Murdoch told AAP.

"Every country will want as much as possible as early as possible (and) there won't be enough stocks for parts of the world that would need it with a higher priority."

Fran Priddy, the clinical director of Vaccine Alliance Aotearoa NZ, said workers within NZ's border regime - including health specialists - should be vaccinated first, followed by those most at risk.

"That would include the elderly, those in nursing homes and those with high rates of comorbidities like Maori," she said.

Dr Priddy said Kiwis should prepare to wait in any case as regulatory approvals and logistics - including super-cold freezers and a supoorting health workforce - were not yet secured.

University of Otago public health professor Michael Baker said New Zealand's success in handling the virus allowed for some selflessness.

"One of the plusses of succeeding with elimination is it frees up vaccines supply for higher priority countries that don't have the resources to do what Australia and New Zealand have done," he said.

Dr Baker agreed with Dr Priddy that groups most at risk of contracting the virus should be vaccinated first, followed by those at risk of severe cases.

"That's why only modest supplies of Pfizer's vaccine will be extremely useful for us," he said.

University of Auckland vaccinologist Helen Petousis-Harris said the Pfizer vaccine - which both the UK and NZ have deals for - required complicated infrastructure and may not be suitable for developing nations.

She reassured Kiwis, saying "there's going to be enough vaccine for everybody".

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