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The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine used in New Zealand contains a small piece of the genetic code of the COVID-19 virus called "mRNA".
Once injected this small piece of code leads to a small piece of the COVID-19 virus (called the "spike protein") being produced for a short period of time.
Your natural immune system finds this "spike protein" and recognises it as a foreign intruder to be destroyed.
Your immune system then produces antibodies, trains itself how best to fight COVID-19 and then remembers this information so that if you then come across an actual COVID-19 virus, your body is already prepared to fight it off and can do so much more effectively.
There are a large number of factors which helped the rapid development of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine:
In short, there have been no shortcuts taken; rather the pandemic has highlighted the huge potential when the world works together on a scientific, financial and political level.
The vaccine provides high levels of protection against COVID-19. It reduces the risk of developing any symptoms of COVID-19 infection (mild or severe) by 95% after the second dose (it is roughly a 50% reduction after the first dose).
The vaccine is highly effective against the B 1.1.7 (UK) variant. The effectiveness of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against the B 1.351 (South African) variant and P1 (Brazilian) variants is under investigation.
We don't know yet but we should know in the near future. Our hope is that just like measles we will have a blood test for COVID-19 that tells us if you are protected.
Yes. Vaccination reduces the chance of vaccinated people becoming infected with COVID-19 and therefore will reduce transmission in the community. It is likely that if you have been vaccinated but unfortunately become infected with COVID-19 that the chances of you transmitting COVID-19 is reduced, however this has not yet conclusively been shown.
Therefore, being vaccinated does not remove the need to keep doing the stuff that's keeping us safe. Please continue to scan QR codes, wash your hands and wear a face covering if required. If you work in a high-risk area you will still need to use PPE and continue with other precautions.
Like all medicines, the vaccine may cause side effects in some people. Some people may experience pain at the injection site, a headache, a fever and feeling tired or having muscle aches – these were the side effects most people reported.
These are usually mild and don't last long and won't stop you from having the second dose or going about your daily life. Serious allergic reactions are extremely rare. Our vaccinators are trained to manage these. Read more about the common side effects here.
It is not possible to 100% know what potential side-effects a vaccine (or any other new medication) may have in 5 to 10 years' time.
However, there are no expected long-term side-effects from the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for the recipient.
All vaccines, including the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will continue under intense international scrutiny as part of Phase 4 surveillance.
There are some specific vaccine myths circulating which you may be alluding to for which we can say:
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine studies have not specifically looked at Antibody Enhanced Disease if infected with COVID-19 following vaccination?
Dr. Paul Offit is one of the leading US academics in infectious diseases, vaccines, immunology and virology.
He has summarised the likelihood of ADE occurring with COVID-19 vaccination is extremely unlikely due to the following pieces of evidence:
Furthermore, there is no signal that people infected with COVID-19 after they have been vaccinated are suffering from more severe disease.
The content of the first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine is exactly the same.
However, it is common for people to have more of a reaction to the second dose - for example a sore arm, muscle aches, headaches, tiredness, fever.
This is because the immune system is 'primed' from the first dose – it teaches your body how to react to the virus so it can respond vigorously to the second dose. This is part of the vaccine 'doing its job'.
However it doesn't mean that people who don't have symptoms are not responding vigorously too, it's just that different people's systems react differently.
As noted previously, symptoms/side effects from vaccination are usually relatively mild and only last about 48 hours.
People under the age of 16 are not included in the vaccine rollout for now. There's limited data available for this age group as they weren't part of the clinical trials. MOH expects to have more information about the use of the vaccine in those under 16 years later this year.
No. Please wait until your symptoms have settled before you get the vaccine. It is important if you have these symptoms that you get tested for COVID-19.
Once you receive the vaccine you will be asked to remain in the waiting area for up to 20 minutes to monitor for any kind of reaction. If you do get an allergic reaction you will be immediately treated by our vaccinators who are trained to managed these.
If anyone has a reaction to the first dose of the vaccine, they will be offered a different vaccine option for their second dose when that arrives.
If you have had a severe or immediate allergic reaction to any vaccine or injection in the past, please discuss this with your vaccinator.
If you are on blood-thinning medications or have a bleeding disorder, please let your vaccinator know.
As per the Immunisation Advisory Centre (IMAC) recommendations, pregnant and breastfeeding women can receive the COVID-19 vaccine with no safety concerns for the woman or the infant.
IMAC is a nationwide organisation based at The University of Auckland.
If you are still unsure we advise that you speak with your vaccinator, GP or midwife.
If you are receiving the cancer drugs Keytruda, Opdivo, Yervoy, or Tecentriq, talk with your specialist about whether you should receive the vaccine.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is considered safe for people with diabetes and/or cardiac conditions.
Yes, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is available to pregnant CMDHB employees if they wish to receive it.
Although there are no specific safety concerns for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in pregnant women, because the randomised controlled trial study on pregnant recipients is still underway AND the risk of encountering COVID-19 in New Zealand is very low, the Immunisation Advisory Centre (IMAC) has generally recommended that pregnant women in New Zealand without an increased risk of COVID-19 exposure delay their vaccination until after delivery unless they have other factors increasing their risk of COVID-19 infection. Their advice can be found here.
Pregnant women who choose to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be able to receive the vaccine at any stage during their pregnancy.
For more information about the vaccination process and when you can get a vaccine click here.
You need two doses of the Pfizer vaccine to give you the best protection against the virus and the Government has secured enough COVID-19 vaccine for everyone in New Zealand to get the two doses they need to be fully vaccinated against the virus.
The second dose is given at least 21 days after the first dose so there will be opportunities to provide people in a 'lower' group with their first dose before someone in a 'higher' group receives their second dose.
The second dose is given at least 21 days after the first dose. You will be contacted (via the email address and/or phone number you provide when receiving your first vaccination) prior to the 21 day mark with information on how to book your next appointment.