COVID-19 vaccine information

March 22nd, 2021

COVID-19 vaccines are an important step forward in our response to the COVID-19 global pandemic. New Zealand is currently administering the Comirnaty™ vaccine (from Pfizer/BioNTech) to those at greatest risk of exposure to COVID-19, and has vaccine purchase agreements with four pharmaceutical agencies in total.  

New Zealand has vaccine purchase agreements with Pfizer/BioNTech, Janssen, AstraZeneca/Oxford and Novavax. This means there is an arrangement to buy a pre-planned number of doses of vaccines from these companies if their vaccines are proven to be safe and effective. Also, as part of a global collaboration called COVAX, New Zealand will have access to additional vaccines.  

New Zealand’s vaccine plan

The New Zealand Government has directed that anyone in New Zealand, whether they are eligible for publicly funded health services or not, will be eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccination until 31 December 2021. Timing of these vaccinations depend upon the priority schedule. COVID-19 vaccines will not be available for private purchase. 

The New Zealand Government has stated that COVID-19 vaccination will NOT be mandatory. 

New Zealand’s vaccine plan is to:

  • put safety first with all COVID-19 vaccines
  • secure enough safe and effective vaccines to protect Aotearoa and the Pacific
  • protect Māori, Pacific peoples, and other groups at greater risk of COVID-19
  • make it easy for people to get vaccinated
  • ensure we are prepared for future outbreaks
  • support New Zealand’s contribution to global wellbeing.

For specific dates please visit the Ministry of Health website here.

How COVID-19 vaccines work

Vaccines work by teaching the body’s immune system to recognise disease-causing organisms (pathogens) without causing illness themselves, so that your body’s immune system then has a memory of the pathogen. When you come across the infection at a later date, your body already has an immune memory to fight the infection faster.  

There are many ways vaccines can be produced, however, they all follow the basic principle of providing a harmless version or part of the pathogen to give the immune system a snapshot of the disease. Learn more about how immunisation works on the IMAC website. 

How COVID-19 vaccines have been developed quickly

In less than a year, we have available, licensed Covid-19 vaccines. The speed of their development can be credited to an amazing international collaborative effort. 

Science has come a long way since the early days of vaccine development and we have had real breakthroughs in design – particularly with the newer RNA and vector-based vaccines leading the way. 

International cooperation supported by significant financial backing has helped overcome roadblocks that have traditionally slowed vaccine development. The different stages of development and approval usually would happen one after another, taking many years to be completed. For COVID-19 vaccines, many of these stages were overlapped and run in parallel. This reduced the amount of time needed dramatically, but still means every step was completed.  

Some of the factors enabling the rapid development of Covid-19 vaccines include: 

  • The fact that the large pivotal trials were able to enrol large numbers of willing participants easily, and because Covid-19 disease is so prevalent, clinical data was collected very fast. 
  • Manufacturing plants were built before the vaccines were finished. A financial risk before they knew if the vaccines would work but meant they were ready to scale up production rapidly as soon as the clinical trials show success. 
  • Authorisation bodies reviewed data as it arrived, to speed up the processes. 

Find out more about the speed of vaccine development.  

More information

What types of vaccines have been developed? How are COVID-19 vaccines authorised in New Zealand?  What are the ingredients of COVID-19 vaccines? 


FAQs about vaccination for special groups. FAQ about vaccination administration process. What happens after vaccination.