As vaccine delays threaten to disrupt the Covid-19 response in Europe, attention is turning to whether New Zealand could manufacture one.
Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca have both warned of possible delays as the European Union places new rules on exports to countries outside the bloc.
Vaccine Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand clinical director Dr Frances Priddy said investigations into manufacturing here were underway.
“So we are working with manufacturers to understand which types of Covid vaccines could be manufactured here, and we’re making some progress,” she said.
Some vaccines would be too difficult to roll out quickly, but Dr Priddy said others had the potential for rapid expansion, including AstraZeneca’s.
She said officials should be following the European delays closely, but stressed there was no need to panic yet.
“We did hear some confirmation from Pfizer that they were still planning to supply New Zealand with the agreed upon amount.
“Vaccine suppliers have, you know, multiple demands on them and reasons why they may… have shortages or difficulty with supply.
“So just because they might not have the full supply agreed upon to one country doesn’t mean that they won’t have supply for other countries.”
Photo: AFP / Anadolu Agency
As well, scientists were still working to develop an all-new vaccine, alongside ongoing collaborative efforts with scientists based in Australia.
It was going well, Dr Priddy said, but was not at a stage where products were ready to be manufactured.
For Ilan Noy, a professor in the economics of disasters, the answer to any potential vaccine delay was simple.
He told Nine to Noon governments should use the law to change vaccine patents owned by private companies, allowing more public production.
“First of all it’s not radical at all, patents are always temporary granting of some rights to pharmaceutical companies, typically it’s between 10 and 20 years.
“So there is nothing radical about changing the duration of that and shortening it.”
Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said steps had been taken to see if New Zealand could scale-up manufacturing capabilities.
He said it would take a while to stand up, but Australia could offer an interim solution as it possessed manufacturing capabilities and a licence to produce AstraZeneca.
When it came to where New Zealand was in the vaccine queue, the Covid-19 response Minister, Chris Hipkins, said we were at the top.
“We are not using emergency vaccination approval processes here in New Zealand,” he said.
“In terms of regular vaccination approvals processes, when we expect to see vaccines arriving through our advance purchase agreements, we’re expecting to be, you know, at the front of the queue, broadly in-line with what other countries who are in the same position as us are doing.”
Advice from the Ministry of Health:
- The recent cases of Covid-19 in Auckland and Northland have been linked to Managed Isolation and Quarantine. There is no evidence so far that suggests community transmission.
- The locations visited by the recent cases can be found on the Ministry of Health website
- To help stamp out Covid-19, it’s important the right people isolate and get tested
- If you were at the locations of interest at the times stated, you need to: isolate away from others, call Healthline 0800 358 5453 for advice on when and where to get tested, and remain isolated until you have a negative test result
- If you were not at a location of interest at the stated times and you have no symptoms you do not need to be tested
- If you were not at any of the locations of interest at the stated times, but you have symptoms, call Healthline for advice on 0800 358 5453
- If you are going to get tested, remember you may have to queue. Please take food and water and continue to be kind to each other and our public health team
- Everyone should continue to scan QR codes using the Covid Tracer app and turn Bluetooth on to help stop the spread of Covid-19