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

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. 
  • 16 and 17 years old: 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 6 months since you were first vaccinated. 
  • 12 to 15 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 16 years old. 
  • 5 to 11 years old: it is recommended that there is an 8-week gap between doses. Booster doses are not currently available to people under 16 years old. 

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

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. 

If you are 18 years old or over, you can get a booster dose 3 months after your primary course.  

If you are 16 or 17 years old, you can get your booster 6 months after your primary course of the COVID-19 vaccine.  

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.  

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 commonly 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 and request your COVID-19 vaccination record and see your latest COVID-19 tests. The website address is mycovidrecord.health.nz 

Through this website, you can

  • Request a copy of your COVID-19 vaccination records – it includes batch numbers, dose number, vaccine name and manufacturer, and any overseas vaccinations you’ve requested be added to your health record.  If you need this for someone else, call 0800 222 478 
  • Request a My Vaccine Pass – an official record of your COVID-19 vaccination status for use in Aotearoa New Zealand. You can request for yourself or for someone else. 
  • Request an International Travel Vaccination Certificate – to prove your vaccination status overseas. You can request for yourself or for someone else. 
  • View your COVID-19 test results. 
  • Upload your Rapid Antigen Test results.  You can add a test result for yourself or for someone else. 

The Government no longer requires My Vaccine Pass to be used to access businesses, events and services. Businesses can still choose to require My Vaccine Pass as a condition of entry if there are health and safety reasons for doing so. However, business and organisations who choose to require a My Vaccine Pass as a condition of entry cannot prevent under 12s from entering without a My Vaccine Pass. 

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 

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