New Zealand's drug regulator is likely to approve the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use in the country by next week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday.
Ardern's announcement came just a day after the country confirmed its first case of the South African variant of coronavirus.
“We’re making swift progress towards vaccinating New Zealanders against the virus, but we’re also absolutely committed to ensuring the vaccines are safe and effective,” Ardern said in her statement posted on the government's official website.
Drug regulator Medsafe will seek advice and recommendations from the Medicines Assessment Advisory Committee on the vaccine next Tuesday.
“The Ministerial expert advisory committee will review Medsafe’s benefit-risk assessment of the pharmaceutical company’s data and, depending on feedback, Medsafe may be able to grant provisional approval as soon as the following day," she added.
"We’re aiming to vaccinate as many New Zealanders as possible – so that’s potentially 5 million people," she said.
"Opening up to the rest of the world was too risky at this stage," she said, ruling out lifting of travel restrictions.
On Monday, Australia suspended quarantine free travel for New Zealanders.
Genomic testing has shown that a 56-year-old woman from Northland region of New Zealand has the South African variant of the disease.
New Zealand has so far reported 2,290 cases and 25 deaths.
*Writing by Islamuddin Sajid
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