The Government has announced it will introduce a Bill to amend the Medicines Act, enabling voluntary booster doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to be administered to the most vulnerable by all vaccinators without a prescription.
“The amendments make it easier to get a second booster dose for those without ready access to a GP and apply to around 850,000 people who are at high risk of getting very sick from COVID-19,” Health Minister, Andrew Little said.
“Amending the Act is a better and more enduring way to manage boosters from this point in the pandemic, rather than using the temporary Epidemic Preparedness (COVID-19 – Medicines Act 1981) Immediate Modification Order that is currently in place.
“Under a truncated timetable agreed to by Parliament, the Bill will go to the Health select committee and be reported back on June 20. The Bill will be considered by the House again in that week.
“The guidance on a second booster follows advice from the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Vaccine Technical Advisory Group (CV TAG) on waning of immunity after a COVID-19 booster dose, and the groups in which this may occur more rapidly.
“The majority of people in these groups will become eligible from July, following advice that six months is an appropriate gap between doses.
“When the Bill passes, the Director General of Health will be able to formally confirm eligibility criteria and details of the rollout of the second booster.”
Associate COVID-19 Response Minister, Ayesha Verrall said a booster was particularly important for those most at risk as we move into winter.
“These changes enable second booster doses to be widely available at vaccination sites and able to be administered by all vaccinators. There is sufficient Pfizer vaccine in stock with current supply sitting at around two million doses,” she said.
“The proposed eligible groups are people aged 65 years and over; Māori and Pacific peoples aged 50 years and over; residents of aged care and disability care facilities and severely immunocompromised people who have received a three-dose primary course and a first booster.
“The proposal to reduce the age of eligibility for older Māori and Pacific peoples recognises that they have been disproportionately affected in the current Omicron outbreak and are at greater risk of hospitalisation and severe disease from COVID-19.”
Dr Verrall strongly encouraged first and second booster uptake as an important step to protect people‘s health and reduce the pressure on the health system as winter and winter illnesses set in.
“Getting a booster reduces the likelihood of a more serious infection and helps keep people out of hospital.”
“A two-dose primary course and a booster dose provides very good and lasting protection for most people, which means we can be more targeted in the rollout of the second booster. So, for those who haven’t had a first booster, please act now,” she said.