We're using the Pfizer vaccine

The  primary COVID-19 vaccine we are using in New Zealand is made by Pfizer-BioNTech. It is also known by its brand name, Comirnaty.It is an mRNA-based (messenger ribonucleic acid) vaccine. It does not contain any live, dead or deactivated viruses. It does not affect or interact with your DNA or genes. 

AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is now available for people aged 18 and older who cannot receive the Pfizer vaccine, and for people who wish to have a different COVID-19 vaccine. 

Pfizer Vaccine

What the Pfizer vaccine contains

The Pfizer vaccine contains:

  • messenger RNA encoding SARS-CoV-2 spike protein

  • lipid nanoparticle – a stabilised fat-based bubble to protect and carry the mRNA into our cells

  • salt buffers – to maintain the pH of the vaccine

  • sucrose – to protect the vaccine while in storage.

Full list of ingredients — Ministry of Health

The Pfizer vaccine does not contain:

  • animal products
  • antibiotics
  • blood products
  • DNA
  • egg proteins
  • fetal material
  • gluten
  • microchips
  • pork products
  • preservatives
  • soy
  • latex (the vial stopper is made with synthetic rubber – bromobutyl).
How the Pfizer vaccine protects your from COVID-19

The type of coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is new to humans. This is why our bodies do not already know how to fight it off.

How it works

  1. The vaccine sends a set of instructions to teach your body how to fight the COVID-19 virus.
  2. With these instructions, your body learns to recognise the COVID-19 virus. Then your immune system can prevent it infecting your cells and help to kill it.
  3. If you come into contact with the COVID-19 virus in the future, your body will have the right tools to protect itself so you are less likely to get sick.

Watch NZ Vaccine Facts: What is a virus and how do vaccines work?

Watch NZ Vaccine Facts: What is an mRNA vaccine?

How we know the Pfizer vaccine is effective

COVID-19 vaccines are already the most well-studied vaccines ever made.

We know the Pfizer vaccine works because it went through months of clinical testing with more than 40,000 people before it was approved for use. Clinical trials compared the results of a vaccinated group with another group who received a placebo (salt solution).

Since then, we have given millions of doses of the Pfizer vaccine in New Zealand and worldwide, with ongoing monitoring of both the protection and safety of this vaccine.

In the clinical trials, it was found that the Pfizer vaccine gave 95% protection against the symptoms of COVID-19.

COVID-19: Vaccine clinical trials and testing – Ministry of Health

It is highly effective against the Delta variant

Data from England shows that 2 doses of the Pfizer vaccine is highly effective against the Delta variant.

Evidence shows that is it still effective against the Delta variant and those few vaccinated people who get infected still have a milder illness with fewer symptoms.

For maximum protection, you need 2 doses

As with any vaccine, the Pfizer vaccine may not fully protect everyone who gets it from COVID-19. But research shows that if you get your 2 doses, you will have a high degree of protection against infection.

Watch NZ Vaccine Facts: Do vaccines work when a virus changes?

COVID-19: About the Delta variant – Ministry of Health

AstraZeneca vaccine

About the AstraZeneca vaccine

The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is available for anyone aged 18 years and older who either wants a different option or if you cannot get the Pfizer vaccine.

Pfizer is the preferred COVID-19 vaccine for use in New Zealand. Both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines will protect you against the symptoms of COVID-19. Both vaccines are free.

The AstraZeneca vaccine needs 2 doses. You will need to wait at least 4 weeks before getting your second dose. To have the best protection, you need to get both doses of the vaccine.

The AstraZeneca vaccine has been thoroughly assessed for safety by Medsafe. Medsafe only grants approval for using a vaccine in Aotearoa once it is satisfied the international evidence shows benefits outweigh the risks. There have been no shortcuts taken in granting approval. The AstraZeneca vaccine has been used successfully by millions worldwide.

Can I get the AstraZeneca vaccine?

There are a small number of people who cannot have the Pfizer vaccine for medical reasons. This is estimated to be only a few hundred people.

There are also some people who wish to have the option of another COVID-19 vaccine for different reasons. This includes people who need to be vaccinated because of the nature of the work they do.

Like the Pfizer vaccine, you need two doses of AstraZeneca to be fully vaccinated.

Where to get the AstraZeneca vaccine

If you are 18 years and older, you can book an appointment to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine at BookMyVaccine.nz

If you select AstraZeneca, the site will show a list of vaccination centres where AstraZeneca can be given. Not all sites are equipped to deliver this vaccine.

Find all sites in Auckland that deliver the AstraZeneca vaccine

What the AstraZeneca vaccine contains

The AstraZeneca vaccine contains:

  • non-replicating modified chimpanzee adenovirus viral vector encoding the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein
  • L-histidine
  • L-histidine hydrochloride monohydrate
  • magnesium chloride hexahydrate
  • polysorbate 80
  • ethanol
  • sucrose
  • sodium chloride
  • disodium edetate dihydrate (EDTA)
  • water for injection.
How the AstraZeneca vaccine protects you from COVID-19

The type of coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is new to humans. This is why our bodies do not already know how to fight it off.

The AstraZeneca vaccine stimulates the body’s immune system. It causes the body to produce antibodies to help fight the virus. This will help to protect you against COVID-19 in the future. None of the ingredients in this vaccine can cause COVID-19.

How we know the AstraZeneca vaccine is effective

COVID-19 vaccines are already the most well-studied vaccines ever made.

In the clinical trials, the AstraZeneca vaccine gave 81% protection against the symptoms of COVID-19.

It also shows effectiveness against hospital admission of at least 80% after a single dose.

For the best protection, you need two doses.

Your questions answered

Is the vaccine safe?

COVID-19 vaccines needed to be rolled out quickly, but that does not mean safety was compromised. The Pfizer vaccine we are using in New Zealand is held to the same high safety standards as any other medicine. 

This is the first time scientists and governments from around the world have united to develop a vaccine. This global collaboration meant vaccines were developed very quickly but without taking any shortcuts in the necessary processes or compromising safety. 

  • Scientists had a head start because of all the research already carried out on related viruses.
  • Governments, private companies and funding agencies have spent a lot of money. This means more could be done in a short space of time.
  • Researchers and governments from different countries shared information and worked together. 
  • More people than usual volunteered for clinical trials. Some clinical trials were done at the same time, instead of one after another.
  • Large manufacturing plants were built so more vaccines can be made faster than was possible before.
  • Researchers could show the vaccine worked sooner than usual, because there are so many cases of COVID-19.

Watch NZ Vaccine Facts: Are vaccines safe?

How was the vaccine created so quickly?

There are many reasons COVID-19 vaccines were able to be made quickly.

  • Scientists had a head start because of all the research already carried out on related viruses.
  • Governments, private companies and funding agencies have spent a lot of money. This means more could be done in a short space of time.
  • Researchers and governments from different countries shared information and worked together. 
  • More people than usual volunteered for clinical trials. Some clinical trials were done at the same time, instead of one after another.
  • Large manufacturing plants were built so more vaccines can be made faster than was possible before.
  • Researchers could show the vaccine worked sooner than usual, because there are so many cases of COVID-19.
Is it safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding?

You can get the COVID-19 vaccine at any stage of pregnancy, while trying for a baby or while breastfeeding.

Getting the vaccine during pregnancy or while breastfeeding may also help protect your baby as there’s evidence that infants can get antibodies to the virus through cord blood and breast milk.

Vaccine advice - pregnancy, breastfeeding and trying for a baby

Can the vaccine affect fertility?

No, the Pfizer vaccine will not affect your genes or fertility.

The mRNA from the vaccine does not enter the nucleus of any cells, which is where your DNA is.

COVID-19 vaccines and fertility — IMAC

Is it safe if you have a health condition?

The Pfizer vaccine has been thoroughly assessed for safety for people with underlying health conditions.

You are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated if you have a condition like cancer, diabetes, kidney disease or heart disease. This is because if you catch COVID-19, you are more likely to get seriously ill and end up in hospital.

You cannot get the Pfizer vaccine if you have had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to an ingredient in the vaccine.

If you have any questions or concerns, talk to your doctor before getting vaccinated.

Vaccine advice if you have a health condition

Ingredients in the vaccine — Ministry of Health

Is it safe for children?

Young people aged 12 to 15 became eligible for the Pfizer vaccine in August 2021.

The vaccine was approved for this age group by Medsafe who is responsible for approving the use of all medicines and vaccines in New Zealand. The Ministry of Health also received advice from science experts in the COVID-19 Vaccine Technical Advisory Group.

Medsafe only gives consent for using a vaccine in Aotearoa once they are satisfied it has met strict standards for safety, efficacy and quality.

A large number of people ages 12 to 15 have now been vaccinated around the world, and no additional safety concerns have been raised.

Can I get the vaccine if I am sick?

If you are unwell on the day of your appointment, you will need to reschedule it. You can be vaccinated once you are well again.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, get a test and stay at home until you get your results. You can be vaccinated once you have a negative test.

Reschedule your appointment

Can I get a different COVID-19 vaccine?

There is a small number of people who cannot have the Pfizer vaccine for medical reasons. This is estimated to be only a few hundred people.

There are also people who wish to have the option of another COVID-19 vaccine for different reasons.

This includes people who need to be vaccinated because of the work they do.

From 26 November the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine available as a second option for people aged 18 and over. Like the Pfizer vaccine, you need 2 doses of AstraZeneca to be fully vaccinated. 

How does a vaccine get approved in New Zealand?

How vaccines are approved for use

Medsafe is New Zealand’s medicines safety authority. It checks applications for all new medicines, including vaccines, to make sure they meet international standards and local requirements.

It will only recommend a medicine is approved for use in New Zealand if it meets these standards.

Medsafe has given the Pfizer vaccine provisional approval (with conditions) for use in New Zealand. As part of this process, Pfizer must give Medsafe ongoing data and reporting to show that it meets international standards.

How we check the safety of vaccines being used

Medsafe will continue to monitor the safety and efficacy of the vaccine as it is used. It reviews data from ongoing clinical trials around the world, and reports from healthcare professionals and people who have been vaccinated.

Assessing and approving the vaccines — Ministry of Health(external link)

NZ Vaccine Facts: What is a virus and how do vaccines work?