A ‘technical paradox’ prompts an immediate reform in the legislation for the Covid-19 vaccine.

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A woman receives a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine during the first rollout in Australia at the Castle Hill Medical Centre in Sydney on February 21, 2021.

A woman receives a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. Photo: AFP / Steven Saphore

Following a High Court ruling today, the government will amend the legislation as soon as possible to insure the legality of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout.

Judge Rebecca Ellis ruled in her opinion that it was “reasonably arguable” that the government’s acceptance of the Pfizer vaccine exceeded what the Medicines Act permitted.

Section 23 of the Act, according to Ellis, requires the Health Minister to sanction medicines for “a limited number of patients” while the Covid-19 vaccine would cover all New Zealanders above the age of 16.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told reporters that the decision revealed a “technical anomaly” in the legislation but posed no safety concerns.

Health Minister Andrew Little said that the government will pass legislation to address the issue as soon as possible tomorrow.

“The law has, for some time now, lacked clarity over how it can be applied,” Little said.

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Little said the legislation had been used for decades by successive governments to grant early access to substances when it was in the public good.

Six products are potentially affected by the Court decision, including the Pfizer vaccine, two flu vaccines, two types of contraceptives, and an electrolyte solution.

“We already knew the Medicines Act was out of date, which is why we were planning to replace it with a new Therapeutic Products Act.

“Treatments approved under Section 23 go through a rigourous Medsafe approvals process. There are occasions when the health needs of a population call for urgent access to a medicine, vaccine or treatment and we need to keep this option available for some circumstances.”

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