COVID-19 Vaccines FAQs

New Zealand’s Vaccine Strategy

Responsibility for access to vaccines lies with the Ministry for Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) which has developed a Vaccine Strategy to ensure New Zealand has access to safe and effective vaccines as early as possible. Information on the strategy can be found here: COVID-19: Vaccine Strategy | MBIE NZ.

As part of that strategy, New Zealand is a contributing member of the international COVAX Facility which includes an option to purchase successful vaccines from that facility; New Zealand also has advance purchase agreements in place with the pharmaceutical suppliers for vaccines produced by Pfizer/BioNTech, Janssen Pharmaceutica, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Novavax.

Responsibility for preparing and delivering vaccines lies with the Ministry of Health (MoH). The vaccine plan and sequencing framework can be found here: COVID-19: Vaccine planning | MoH NZ. The MoH expects to deliver vaccines to Tier 1 in the second quarter of 2021.

No. The focus for the New Zealand Government is on ensuring access to and appropriate sequencing of safe and effective vaccines for people living in New Zealand as well as in the countries in the Realm of New Zealand.

New Zealanders offshore should consult the relevant health authority in the country where they are living to confirm local vaccination arrangements. NZ Inc is working to facilitate access to vaccines for NZ Inc staff and dependants off shore. See separate section for more detail.

No. COVID-19 vaccination will be encouraged but, as with all vaccines, will not be mandatory in New Zealand.

Yes. The Government has confirmed that the COVID-19 vaccination will be free of charge for New Zealanders.

Vaccine Safety and Effectiveness

Any vaccine being administered in New Zealand must have been approved by the New Zealand medicines regulator, Medsafe.

Any vaccine in use should have been assessed and approved by the appropriate regulatory authority to a rigorous international standard.

As vaccine safety and efficacy is a medical issue, MFAT will rely on Healix to assess and determine whether a COVID-19 vaccine being administered offshore has an adequate approved in place, and is effective for the individual concerned.

Provided it does not conflict with a Medsafe decision, Healix does consider use of vaccines authorised or given full approval (approved) by other regulatory agencies listed on the WHO list of Stringent Regulatory Authorities. Healix will give particular consideration to the approvals given by regulatory agencies whose standards New Zealand is familiar with including: the Australian Therapeutic Goods Agency (TGA); US Food and Drug Administration (FDA); UK Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA); European Medicines Agency (EMA) and national agencies of members of the European Union; Japanese Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency (PDMA); and Canadian Therapeutic Products Directorate (TPD).

The current list of vaccines which Healix has endorsed as having an acceptable approval by a WHO Stringent Regulatory Authority can be sourced here. SNZ staff and dependents should always consult directly with Healix prior to considering taking a vaccine even when it is included in this list.

SNZ staff and families can contact Healix through the normal channel for medical advice.

MFAT is currently discussing options with Healix to make accessing their advice on vaccines and vaccination simple and straightforward. More information will be forthcoming in the near future.

MFAT Approach to Vaccination

Yes, wherever possible. MFAT will endeavour to facilitate access to safe and effective vaccines for all SNZ staff and dependants and SEP staff as early as possible while working within local and New Zealand policy and regulatory settings.

There are no current plans to arrange COVID-19 vaccination for staff in New Zealand. Vaccines in New Zealand will be administered according to the MoH vaccine sequencing framework.

Yes. NZ Inc is working closely to promote policy alignment and ensure that any vaccines access opportunities are made available to all of NZ Inc.

No. The distribution and sequencing of vaccines included in New Zealand’s advance purchase agreements is being planned by the MoH.

MFAT is working with the MoH to ensure that the needs of staff in the offshore network are considered in planning and sequencing and we will provide further information on this aspect in due course.

Not currently. Globally, the purchase and rollout of COVID-19 vaccines is being managed by governments via large pre-purchase agreements which can absorb all available supply. Private purchase of vaccine is not expected to be an option for some time.

The needs and options available vary widely across the network. MFAT will be looking at a range of options relevant to different regions and posts. We will be advocating for the inclusion of foreign nationals (including diplomats) in partner country vaccination programmes. We are in discussion with other foreign ministries about respective plans and options to cooperate. We are exploring the potential for vaccination of SNZ staff via return to New Zealand.

For many posts, the most viable option will be to access safe and effective vaccinations locally when they become available. MFAT will be working to support posts to gain such access.

Due to the complex logistics, temperature control, supply chain management, and local regulatory permissions required for vaccine shipping and administration, it is unlikely that this is a technically feasible option for MFAT. However this will be further assessed as available vaccines and Post contexts change.

MFAT will prioritise efforts to facilitate vaccine access for posts where risks are highest. However, timing of access may also depend on the timing of locally available options in different locations.

MFAT will be working to facilitate access to vaccines for all offshore staff, SNZ and SEP, as all are our employees and all are required to sustain the network. However, the timing and nature of access may be different for different staff at a post. For example, local vaccinations in country may be available to SEP but not SNZ; while SNZ staff travelling to New Zealand may be able to access a vaccine before it is available for SEP. MFAT will retain flexibility to support partial options as they arise.

Any New Zealand sourced vaccinations will need to meet the Ministry of Health’s sequencing priorities.

No. Staff are encouraged to be vaccinated when safe and effective vaccinations are available and accessible, but no staff will be required to be vaccinated.

As vaccination becomes more widely available, MFAT may need to consider the risk and implications of posting staff without vaccination to areas where COVID prevalence is high.

MFAT and staff may also need to consider the impact of declining vaccination on staff ability to travel overseas and carry out their work. As vaccinations become more widely available, private entities such as airlines or workplaces may put in place a requirement for evidence of vaccination, as may countries with respect to transit or border entry.

Vaccination and Staff Based in New Zealand

Staff based in New Zealand should access vaccinations in the same manner as other New Zealanders according to the Ministry of Health’s vaccine sequencing framework.

When vaccines become widely available, the Ministry may consider whether there is a benefit to be gained from facilitating access to staff such as is currently undertaken for flu vaccinations.

No, as there is no need. The New Zealand Government has confirmed that vaccinations for New Zealanders will be provided free of charge under the domestic immunisation programme.

Vaccination and SNZ staff and families posted offshore

SNZ staff who are offered a vaccine locally should seek medical advice (primarily Healix) with respect to the vaccine approval status, safety and efficacy, and whether it is recommended for their particular circumstances.

MFAT is not a medical agency and will not assess or recommend particular vaccines.

SNZ staff and families should contact Healix to seek advice on COVID-19 vaccination issues including whether a particular vaccine can be considered safe and effective.

Yes, on advice from Healix. Medsafe is only expected to progress approvals for vaccines that are likely to be delivered in New Zealand. This will not include all vaccines that may be safe and effective. It is important that any vaccine has been subject to adequate assessment and approval prior to use.

SNZ staff should contact Healix for advice on the safety and efficacy of particular vaccines prior to taking up a vaccination opportunity. Healix is not limited to recommending Medsafe-approved vaccines.

No. Confirmation of an adequate vaccine approval must be complemented by specific medical advice on whether the vaccine, under its current approval, is recommended for the particular individual.

Healix can provide advice on the approval in place for particular vaccines and their suitability.

No. Provided you are in country as an accredited diplomat, the Vienna Convention provisions on inviolability mean you cannot be forced to take a vaccine. Staff facing such a circumstances should immediately contact PRD.

No. Freedom of movement is protected under the Vienna Conventions, subject to national security. However, some states have considered the pandemic a matter of national security. New Zealand does not agree with this interpretation. If you face any difficulties, please get in touch with PRD.

Yes. There is no obligation for a receiving state to provide access to its Government. If facing such restrictions Posts should notify PRD.

No. There is no obligation under the Vienna Conventions on the state you’re in to provide preferential treatment with respect to vaccines.

Yes. Provided you receive a vaccine recommended by Healix and which has been approved by Medsafe or has been endorsed by Healix as having an acceptable approval by one of the authorities included on the WHO list of Stringent Regulatory Authorities, the Ministry will reimburse the direct cost of vaccination through the standard Healix process.

SNZ staff should request to have their vaccine recorded by the administering physician or agency in one of the WHO ‘yellow card’ booklets that record vaccination details and dates.

MFAT requests that SNZ staff and recognised partners and dependants confirm vaccination details with Healix so that they can be recorded against your medical file.

Vaccination and Staff Employed at Post

While MFAT will include all post staff in analysis and planning, it is not clear to what extent MFAT will be able to facilitate vaccinations for SEP at post.  Staff with options to receive safe and effective vaccination locally should not wait for an MFAT delivered process.

SEP staff should seek information on local vaccination options and vaccines from the relevant authority or their medical provider.

No, although this may depend on the particular vaccine. Where there is a vaccination charge, MFAT will reimburse the direct cost of vaccination for SEP staff provided the vaccine in one that has been approved by Medsafe or endorsed by Healix.

Role of Healix

Healix’s role with respect to COVID-19 vaccines is essentially the same as its normal role providing health services to SNZ staff and recognised dependants posted offshore. Healix will provide advice on safe and effective vaccines, make recommendations and referrals to appropriate vaccination providers, and cover the cost of receiving approved vaccines where available/applicable.

At present (January 2021) Healix is not able to arrange for staff in the offshore network to be vaccinated as all contracts for vaccine supplies are with public agencies and governments who are sequencing access according to their particular public health priorities.

This may change depending on local policy on vaccine approval and access priorities as vaccines become more generally available over time.

Vaccination and Post Working Arrangements

No. While a number of vaccines are proving effective in the prevention of serious disease, there is insufficient trial data to date to determine whether people who have been vaccinated may still transmit the virus if infected. There are also a range of different vaccines which will have different levels of protection and duration. In addition not all staff are likely to be vaccinated concurrently and some may be unable to be vaccinated for a range of reasons.

Posts will need to maintain business continuity plans and post operational arrangements designed to keep staff safe according to the local situation and context. For the time being, all staff will need to continue to follow those arrangements irrespective of vaccination status.

Vaccines and Travel, Borders and MIQ

Not at this point in time. There is insufficient trial data to confirm whether people who have been vaccinated with particular vaccines may still carry and transmit the virus. It is therefore too early to consider implications for the border and MIQ and New Zealand has no current plans to reduce the border or MIQ requirements based on evidence of vaccination.

No. As noted above, there is currently insufficient information to consider changes or exemptions from New Zealand’s current border and MIQ requirements which remain critical to our elimination approach.

The link between vaccination, means to prove vaccination, efficacy of vaccination in preventing transmission and the requirements for travel or border entry remain unclear. Governments including New Zealand are engaged in work to consider those links. It is possible that some governments or airlines will bring in travel or entry requirements related to vaccines and the Ministry will be monitoring any such developments closely.

Entry to New Zealand is not linked to COVID-19 vaccination.

Currently there is no agreed international system to record and prove receipt of a COVID-19 vaccine. This is a matter under active consideration by governments and by the World Health Organisation.

In New Zealand, vaccinations will be recorded via the national immunisation register. Any SNZ staff off shore are requested to register any vaccine taken with Healix.

If you have any questions, please send your enquiries to CovidVaccineEnquiries-MFAT@healix.com and you will receive a response within two business days.

For urgent COVID vaccine related enquiries, please call us +64 (0) 9 477 4410 and choose option 4. The phone line is available 9am to 5pm GMT from Monday to Friday.