The New Zealand Government has granted formal approval for use of Pfizer and BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine as a critical step to ensure the vaccine is safe and effective.

Last week, the New Zealand Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority, Medsafe, granted provisional approval for the vaccine.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said: “The government is continuing to go by the book and has carefully considered the ‘decision to use’ the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine as part of our nationwide programme.

“As part of our portfolio, we have secured up to 750,000 courses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine through an Advance Purchase Agreement, and we are seeking a further small allocation through the COVAX Facility.

“We will start vaccinating our border workers within days of arrival and then the people they live with.”

Last October, Pfizer and BioNTech entered an agreement with the New Zealand government to supply 1.5 million doses of their Covid-19 vaccine.

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By GlobalData

Initially, the country also plans to inoculate cleaners, nurses who undertake health checks in MIQ, security staff, customs and border officials, airline staff and hotel workers.

Medsafe is currently in regular talks with AstraZeneca and Janssen and has also initiated engagement with Novavax.

Reuters reported that the authorities anticipate the vaccine to arrive in the country by March-end but raised concerns about export restrictions.

In a separate development, a subject expert committee of India’s Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) granted approval to Bharat Biotech to begin Phase I clinical trial of an intranasal Covid-19 vaccine candidate.

The latest move comes after the committee approved the revised protocol.

Meanwhile, scientists at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) in the US found promising results in pre-clinical studies of Novavax’s new experimental Covid-19 vaccine candidate, NVX-CoV2373.

NVX-CoV2373 is a stabilised, prefusion protein antigen derived from genetic sequence of SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) protein and has Novavax’s proprietary adjuvant Matrix M.

The vaccine generated a robust immune response in animals exposed to the vaccine with robust data signifying its safety and efficacy.

The results initiated human trials of the vaccine in the US with a Phase III trial launched at the UMSOM’s Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health.