BioNTech starts production at Marburg COVID-19 vaccine site

A mobile phone screen displays an image of Corowa-kun the mascot of an online chatbot set up to answer questions about Covid 19 vaccines in Japan

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, which was the first to receive WHO Emergency Use Listing (EUL) on 31 December 2020, requires ultra-cold chain storage.

BioNTech bought the Marburg site from Swiss pharma giant Novartis AG last year and plans to use it to supply the world outside the USA the plant is on track to produce as many as 250 million doses of Covid vaccine in the first half of this year, BioNTech said.

"We have been working behind the scenes to secure the timely arrival of vaccines for our border workers and their families and it's great they will arrive well within our scheduled timeframes".

Last month, Sweden froze payments to Pfizer to investigate whether the government was being overcharged for the vaccines. "We appreciate the effort the company has gone to to deliver the first instalment earlier than originally anticipated".

"We have pre-purchased enough vaccines to cover all New Zealanders and to do so for free, and the Pacific as well", she said. The AstraZeneca vaccine can be stored at 2 to 8 C, making it easier to handle, but is less effective at around 70%.

"Systems and processes are in place for the first vaccinations to start once final checks have been completed", Chris Hipkins said.

It had been widely reported that the first doses would arrive from Belgium, where they were manufactured, on Sunday, while the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry had initially planned to move ahead with formal approval on Monday.

The inoculation drive will start with a group of about 20,000 healthcare workers, who will be observed over the course of their two shots and after, before being expanded, according to the health ministry.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said the vaccine comes in vials that can contain up to six doses.

Ms Ardern said border restrictions could be eased if there was evidence that vaccines reduced transmission.

The press conference follows a Ministry of Health Covid-19 immunisation business engagement event in Auckland this morning.

Earlier this week, Hipkins revealed that more than 2000 health workers are being trained and mobilised in anticipation of the first wave of vaccines landing on New Zealand's shores.

But neither has put an exact date as to when the doses are expected to land.

She added that it would take all year for the full vaccination programme to be rolled out in its entirety.

Ardern said the Government expects to vaccinate the 12,000-strong workforce within two to three weeks.

Vaccinations for the wider population is expected to start in the second half of the year.

One of the new cases is a contact of a previously recorded case.

"This is a time for us all to offer our deep sympathy, while also respecting the family's privacy".

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