Common questions about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout

The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in Aotearoa New Zealand is under way. Find out the answers to some common questions about getting the COVID-19 vaccination.

On this page, you can find the following information:

What is the COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan in Aotearoa New Zealand?

New Zealand is currently rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine plan. The plan aims to ensure that everyone will get free, fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. The plan prioritises people most at risk of harm if they get the virus and those who live and work in places where they are most likely to pick up COVID-19. 

There are 4 main groups:

  • Group 1 is the border and managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) workers, their household contacts and the people they live with. 
  • Group 2 is the frontline workers and people living in high-risk settings, such as healthcare workers on community frontlines or protecting our most vulnerable people, and some priority populations, including people living in the Counties Manukau DHB district who are 65 years and older, or have an underlying health condition.
  • Group 3 is people at higher risk if they catch COVID-19, such as older adults and people with underlying health conditions or disabilities. 
  • Group 4 is the rest of the general population.

Within these groups, there is a flexible and  whānau-centred approach that focuses on protecting kuia and koroua and those with long-term health conditions as a priority. This means, when a kuia or koroua go to get vaccinated, their whānau members who live with them will also be able to be vaccinated at the same time.

To find out more

To find out which vaccination group you are in and when you can expect to get a vaccine, see the online tool from the Ministry of Health. The tool can be used on mobile, desktop and tablet. It is currently available in English, te reo Māori, TonganSimplified Chinese, Korean, Fijian, Hindi, Samoan, and Tagalog and is in the process of being translated into 17 other languages. 

For more details about the vaccine rollout, including priority groups, see COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan.

For more details around the vaccination campaign specifically in the Auckland and Northland region, see Immunisation.northernregion.nz.

Which COVID-19 vaccine is being rolled out?

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is being used in New Zealand. This vaccine is known by the brand name Comirnaty®. Medsafe has given provisional consent to use this vaccine in New Zealand.

Before vaccines are provided to the community, they must be approved by Medsafe. Medsafe is the New Zealand Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority, and is a part of the Ministry of Health. It is responsible for the regulation of medicines. It is Medsafe's role to assess the available data about a vaccine before approving its use in New Zealand.

Provisional approval means the pharmaceutical company must meet certain conditions, including supplying more data from its clinical trials around the world. This will happen at the same time as the vaccine is rolled out. Provisional approval is not uncommon, eg, the annual flu vaccine is given provisional approval for the same reason. 

Medsafe only grants consent for a vaccine to be used in New Zealand once they are satisfied it’s safe and effective enough to use.

Read more about the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine (Comirnaty®).

Will everyone have to get the vaccine or can you choose whether to have it?

It will not be mandatory to have the vaccine, which means you won't be required to have it. Having a COVID-19 vaccine is voluntary, which means you can choose whether or not to have it. However, getting vaccinated is one of the best ways you can protect not only yourself but members of your whānau from getting COVID-19. 

Can I ask to get the vaccine?

Currently you can't request a vaccine and have to wait until it is your turn to get it. However, two groups are still being considered and may be able to ask to get the vaccine – people who need if for compassionate reasons and people who it in order to represent New Zealand overseas.

Where will vaccinations happen?

There will be a range of places and different options to make getting a vaccine as easy as possible.

These will include:

  • Māori and Pasifika providers
  • GPs
  • pop-up centres
  • medical and hauora centres
  • community clinics
  • larger-scale events.

Border, MIQ and healthcare workers will get their vaccine at or near their place of employment, and the people they live with will be invited to get their vaccine at a range of places. Workers and residents in long-term residential environments will get their vaccine at their facility.

To find out which vaccination group you are in and when you can expect to get a vaccine, see the online tool from the Ministry of Health. 

For more details around the vaccination campaign specifically in the Auckland and Northland region, see Immunisation.northernregion.nz

Can the Pfizer vaccine be given with other vaccines?

The Pfizer vaccine can't be given within 2 weeks of a flu vaccine, or 4 weeks of any other vaccine, such as the MMR vaccine. Having a gap between 2 different vaccinations makes it easier to work out which vaccine may be responsible for any side effects.

Note that you need 2 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. These are given at least 21 days apart. 

If you are due for the Pfizer vaccine and the flu vaccine or the MMR vaccine, having the Pfizer vaccine takes priority over having other vaccines. It is best that the COVID-19 vaccine course is completed before receiving influenza or MMR vaccines.

Can I get a vaccine if I have an underlying health condition? If so, can I get it early?

People with some underlying health conditions will be offered the vaccine as part of Group 3 (starting May 2021). At this stage, health conditions include:

• serious and chronic respiratory conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
• chronic kidney/renal disease
• diabetes
• coronary heart conditions
• stroke
• hypertension (high blood pressure)
• cancer, excluding basal and squamous skin cancers if not invasive.

Further guidelines on the eligibility of people with underlying health conditions for access to COVID-19 vaccines will be coming out soon.

How can I make sure the information I get about the COVID-19 vaccines is true?

There have been examples in New Zealand and overseas of people using the COVID-19 vaccine rollout to spread misinformation and scam people into giving out their financial and personal details. The Government cyber security agency CERT NZ is working closely with other government agencies to try to stop these scams.   

Key things to know are that:  

  • the vaccine is free
  • you will never be asked to pay for a place in a queue to get the vaccine
  • information about the vaccine will come from the Ministry of Health and other trusted sources (see below)
  • if you receive any emails out of the blue asking for financial and personal details it is likely to be a scam  
  • the best way you can help stop these scams affecting New Zealanders is to report them to CERT NZ via its website

Learn more

For other reliable and accurate information about COVID-19 vaccines, see:

COVID-19 vaccines The Immunisation Advisory Centre
COVID-19: Vaccine planning Ministry of Health, NZ, 2020
COVID-19 therapeutic products – questions and answers Medsafe, NZ
Facts about COVID-19 vaccines Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Vaccines World Health Organization
Questions and answers about COVID-19 vaccines Children's Hospital of Philadelphia 

References

  1. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Vaccines World Health Organization
  2. COVID-19 vaccines Unite Against COVID-19, NZ, 2020
  3. New Zealand joins global search for COVID-19 vaccine beehive.govt.nz, NZ, 2020
  4. Two new vaccines secured, enough for every New Zealander Unite Against COVID-19, NZ, 2020
  5. Approval status of COVID vaccines applications received by Medsafe Medsafe, NZ, 2020
Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team. Reviewed By: Dr Helen Petousis-Harris, Associate Professor, University of Auckland Last reviewed: 11 Jan 2021