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NZ secures 60,000 doses of Pfizer's new antiviral medicine - PM

Author
Michael Neilson, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 6 Dec 2021, 3:11pm

NZ secures 60,000 doses of Pfizer's new antiviral medicine - PM

Author
Michael Neilson, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 6 Dec 2021, 3:11pm

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says Pharmac has secured 60,000 doses of Pfizer's new antiviral medicine.

The drug had up to 90 per cent reduction in death, and could be taken at the first stage of someone getting unwell with Covid-19.

It was a "major step" in the global fight against Covid, Ardern said at today's post-Cabinet press briefing.

This was the second antiviral purchased by NZ, after another deal was signed in October, and our sixth treatment.

Director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the Pfizer drug - which doesn't yet have a brand name in New Zealand - is a tablet and so could be taken in the community. It was very useful for people who were high risk but not needing hospital care.

The Pfizer antiviral is expected to be delivered to New Zealand in April, once approved by MedSafe. Other Covid medicines secured by Pharmac are baricitinib, remdesivir, tocilizumab and Ronapreve.

Money for all six medicines comes from the Government's Covid-19 fund.

Alongside vaccinations, NZ's hospital treatments were already reducing the likelihood of people needing ICU care, with the ICU rate in Auckland dropping to 3 per cent of hospitalisations, down from 5.7 per cent previously, Ardern said.

Per capita, New Zealand had maintained the lowest case and death numbers from Covid-19.

Auckland, Northland cases lower than expected

Across the Auckland and Northland DHBs, there were fewer cases than expected at this stage, showing the vaccines were working, Ardern said.

On vaccination projections, looking towards the review next Monday, Ardern said 88 per cent of the eligible population was fully vaccinated.

The nation was projected to hit 90 per cent double dose by December 14 or 15.

The Auckland DHBs were projected to do so also, coinciding with the date Auckland's boundary opens.

Vaccine pass forgery 'not widespread'

On fraudulent vaccine passes, Ardern said there was no evidence the issue was widespread. No police district had reported any compliance issues.

It was possible to check passes with the app and against people's photo ID.

Ardern said officials would be providing more clarity about how people could raise concerns about fraudulent behaviour.

135 new community cases today

It comes after the country's first weekend under the new traffic light system, and 135 new cases of Covid-19 announced today.

Ardern this morning told Breakfast she was feeling "really positive" after the country's first weekend in the new traffic light system.

There will be no decision today about changes to the current settings. The next review will be next Monday, December 13.

Of today's 135 new cases, there are 125 in Auckland, 8 in Waikato and 2 in Canterbury.

There are four new cases in Nelson-Marlborough, which will be officially reported in tomorrow's figures.

Seventy-six people are in hospital with the virus, including seven people in ICU or HDU.

Of those, 14 are in Waitemata, 31 in Auckland, 26 in Counties Manukau, two in Waikato, two in Bay of Plenty and two in Nelson-Marlborough.

Bloomfield said officials would like to see more testing in Gisborne, after a positive wastewater result there.

On the Omicron variant, Bloomfield said there was "more speculation than fact".

More would be known about the strain in about a week, he said.

'We're not asking people to stay home'

Ardern said it was too early to say if Omicron could affect future travel dates. Nothing had been changed, but if significant evidence was presented - for example around vaccine efficacy - then that would be looked at.

It was inevitable an Omicron case would arrive at the border, as Delta had. The key was ensuring it was handled at the border, Ardern said.

"It is a when, not an if."

On Omicron travel bans and why only African countries were on the list, Ardern said it was based on public health assessments and officials would be receiving an update later this week.

On calls for people to cancel their holidays over Covid concerns, Ardern said protections had been put in place.

"We are not asking people to stay home. We are asking people to follow the rules."

Ardern reiterated officials were not supporting calls for people to stay away from certain areas. Those concerns were why some areas were still in the red setting.

Bloomfield said the reason so much effort was put into vaccination rates was to allow people to get back to normal and travel again.

That was also why unvaccinated people would need to return negative tests.

Approach to Luxon 'exactly the same'

On going up against new National Party leader Christopher Luxon tomorrow in the House, Ardern said this was the fifth National leader she'd dealt with and her approach would be "exactly the same".

Politics and a pandemic presented a completely different challenge, Ardern said, when asked about Luxon's business experience.

Managing a caucus with three past leaders "can't be easy", she said, adding that she wished him luck.

On banning anonymous political donations, Ardern said the goal was to allow the public to express their views on the issue.

It was in everyone's interest to ensure trust in democracy. Campaigning had relied on donations; the key was ensuring it was done in a way that did not undermine that.