Is the vaccine programme ready for variants?

Mon, 29 Nov, 2021

“New Zealand ran one of the latest COVID vaccine programs on earth. Jacinda tried to say it was good because we had a different strategy. As New Zealand re-joins the world, the vaccine strategy needs to be ready for variants,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Omicron should not be a cause for panic. The great danger it poses is the potential for immune escape, which should be known in a few weeks. The response may need to accommodate newly configured mRNA vaccines.

“Vaccine manufacturers say they can ship vaccines for new variants within 100 days, but New Zealand has been woefully slow at procuring, approving, rolling out, and validating vaccination.

“Jacinda should explain whether the Government’s vaccine program is ready to deal with variants; from procurement to validation.

“Is the Government talking to manufacturers? Do they have any agreements to be ‘first in the queue’ for new variant vaccines with Pfizer or any other provider? And does they mean PHARMAC or MBIE?

“Is the Government talking to Medsafe about fast-track approval, such as approving what is approved by the FDA automatically?  ACT’s COVID 3.0 paper says treatments approved by the EU, UK, US or Australia should be automatically allowed here.

“Is the roll out ready to go, with GPS, pharmacies, and community groups playing an integrated roll this time. The vaccine roll out would not have worked without them, and they were brought on board too late.

“Will the Government have a way of validating new updates to the vaccine within the My Vaccine Pass program? It has taken forever to validate vaccination, and the pass expires six months after issue, not after the actual vaccination. The pass should be linked to individual vaccinations, with the capacity to show specific variant doses too.

“If not Omicron, there will be a future variant that requires vaccine upgrades. The Government should be thinking hard about whether its vaccine program is ready for that. It has been woeful with just one vaccine and will require a serious upgrade for an ongoing program.”