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The Pfizer Vaccine

Find about the Pfizer vaccine and how you can get vaccinated. 

About the Pfizer vaccine 

The main COVID-19 vaccine we are using in New Zealand is made by Pfizer-BioNTech. It is also known by its brand name, Comirnaty.  

It is an mRNA-based (messenger ribonucleic acid) vaccine. It does not contain any live, dead or deactivated viruses. It does not affect or interact with your DNA or genes. 

It is free and is available to everyone in New Zealand aged 5 and over.  

The vaccine used for 5-11 year olds is a children’s version of the Pfizer vaccine, with a lower dose and smaller volume. 

Find out more about vaccinations for 5-11 year olds 

Time between doses 

  • 18 years old and over: you need to get two doses of the vaccine at least 3 weeks apart. You will also need a booster dose if it has been at least 3 months since you were first vaccinated. 
  • Between 12 and 18 years old: you need to get two doses of the vaccine at least 3 weeks apart. Booster doses are not currently available to people under 18 years old. 
  • Under 12 years old: it is recommended that there is an 8-week gap between doses. Booster doses are not currently available to people under 18 years old. 

Find out about booster doses 

Getting your Pfizer vaccine 

You can book to receive the Pfizer vaccine through Book My Vaccine or by calling the COVID Vaccination Healthline on 0800 28 29 26

You cannot get the Pfizer vaccine if you are under 5 years old. 

A fully trained vaccinator will give you the vaccine in your upper arm. The second injection can be given at least 3 weeks after the first injection. If you get Pfizer for the first dose, then you should also get it for the second dose.  

You will need to stay for at least 15 minutes after your vaccination so we can make sure you are okay. 

3 months after you receive your second dose, you will be eligible for a booster dose. 

Find out about booster doses 

How the Pfizer vaccine works 

The Pfizer vaccine sends a set of instructions to teach your body how to fight the COVID-19 virus. Your body then learns to recognise the COVID-19 virus and use antibodies against it. Antibodies stop the virus from infecting your cells and help to kill it.  

If you come into contact with the COVID-19 virus in the future, your body will have the right tools to protect itself, so you are less likely to get sick. 

How we know the Pfizer vaccine is effective 

COVID-19 vaccines are already the most well-studied vaccines ever made. 

We know the Pfizer vaccine works because it went through months of clinical testing with more than 40,000 people before it was approved for use. Clinical trials compared the results of a vaccinated group with another group who received a placebo (salt solution). In the clinical trials, it was found that the Pfizer vaccine gave 95% protection against the symptoms of COVID-19. 

It has also been proven to be highly effective against the Delta variant. 

Find out about the Delta variant 

How we check the safety of vaccines used 

Medsafe is New Zealand’s medicines safety authority. It checks applications for all new medicines, including vaccines, to make sure they meet international standards and local requirements. It will recommend that a medicine is approved for use in New Zealand only if it meets these standards. 

Medsafe has given the Pfizer vaccine provisional approval (with conditions) for use in New Zealand. This means it is been formally approved, but Pfizer must give Medsafe ongoing data and reporting to show that it meets international standards. 

Medsafe will continue to monitor the safety and efficacy of the vaccine as it is used. It reviews data from ongoing clinical trials around the world, and reports from healthcare professionals and people who have been vaccinated. 

Side effects 

Like all medicines, you might experience some mild side effects in the days after getting your vaccination. This is common, and it is a sign that your body is learning to fight the virus. 

Most side effects do not last long and will not stop you from having a second dose or going about your daily life. Some side effects may temporarily affect your ability to drive or use machinery. 

The most common reported reactions are: 

  • pain or swelling at the injection site 
  • feeling tired or fatigued 
  • headache 
  • muscle aches 
  • chills 
  • joint pain 
  • fever
  • redness at the injection site 
  • nausea. 

Some side effects are more common after the second dose. 

Serious side effects 

There are some side effects that are very rare but are more serious. 

Myocarditis is the inflammation of the heart muscle wall and is a known rare side effect of the Pfizer vaccine. 

Symptoms can include: 

  • new onset chest pain 
  • shortness of breath
  • abnormal/racing heartbeat. 

Reporting side effects 

You can report any side effects to CARM, The Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring. CARM is a database of information about adverse reactions (side effects) to medicines and vaccines in New Zealand. 

Report an adverse reaction 

Proving you have been vaccinated 

My Covid Record is a website that allows you to check your COVID-19 vaccination record. Through this website, you can request: 

  • My Vaccine Pass – an official record of your COVID-19 vaccination status for use in Aotearoa New Zealand 
  • an International Travel Vaccination Certificate – to prove your vaccination status overseas. 

Children under the age of 12 years and 3 months are not required to show proof of vaccination status under the traffic light system. Business and organisations cannot prevent under 12s from entering without a My Vaccine Pass. 

Find out about My Covid Record 

More information 

Assessing and approving the vaccines | Ministry of Health 

Vaccine side effects and reactions | Ministry of Health 

About the Pfizer vaccine | Immunisation Advisory Centre 

Misinformation and scams 

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