Medsafe reviewing new versions of Covid-19 vaccine


Medsafe reviewing new versions of Covid-19 vaccine



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DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando
Medsafe is reviewing two applications for COVID-19 vaccines that cover the XBB 1.5 strain of Omicron

New versions of two Covid-19 vaccines are up for approval by Medsafe.

The organisation said it had accepted applications for the latest updates of the Pfizer and Novovax vaccines which cover the XBB 1.5 strain of Omicron.

XBB dominated Covid case numbers during the winter, although now made up only about a fifth.

As part of the approval process, the vaccine companies had been sending data and information for several months to Medsafe, which approves medicines used in New Zealand.

The agency now had enough to formally accept the applications, and would begin reviewing them.

The University of Auckland vaccinologist Helen Petousis-Harris said that even though the updated vaccine was aimed at the now dwindling XBB, its protection would go further.

"It's able to raise some quite robust antibodies against these emerging variants, including those that are starting to dominate here," she said.

Older versions of the vaccine would still have an impact on newer virus strains - particularly against serious disease or death, she said.

Funding for Covid vaccines had now been looped into Pharmac's budget, unlike early in the pandemic when the government created a separate fund.

No decision on the new versions had been made yet, but Pharmac pharmaceuticals director Geraldine MacGibbon said she understood people were interested in being able to have them.

"We are working with suppliers and the health sector to give New Zealanders access to these as soon as possible," she said in a statement.

The number of people getting the current Covid boosters has spiked in the past few weeks as another wave of the virus hits the country.

Wastewater analysis showed the virus was still on the increase in the community.

Because people were no longer required to report when they had Covid, official daily case numbers did not reflect the actual cases in the community.

Te Whatu Ora figures showed there were 332 people in hospital with the virus on Sunday, 3 December, 120 more than the same time a month earlier.

The last time hospitalisations were trending that high was April.

Current boosters are available to anyone over 30, and people over 16 at higher risk of serious illness, six months after their last booster or bout of the virus.

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