Coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Like other coronaviruses, it has characteristic crown-like protein spikes on the surface which it uses to infect the cells in our airways. The mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, Comirnaty provides your body with the instructions to make the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. The spike protein is presented to the cells in the lymph node and induces a strong immune response.
Everyone in New Zealand is eligible to receive this vaccine, whether they are eligible to funded health and disability services or not. Anyone aged from 12 years can access two doses of COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty 30 mcg. Children aged from 5 years can access two doses of the paediatric formulation of Comirnaty 10mcg. First and second booster doses are also available. See the Ministry of Health COVID-19 vaccines webpage and the Immunisation Handbook for more information.
Also available for adolescents and adults aged from 12 years is a recombinant protein based vaccine, Nuvaxovid (from Novavax).
As part of the primary schedule, a third dose of Comirnaty is recommended for people aged from 5 years, who are severely immunocompromised. For more information on Comirnaty third primary dose, and second booster doses, click here.
For more information about COVID-19 vaccines and the COVID-19 vaccination education programme see our dedicated COVID-19 education website.
COVID-19 Vaccine Nuvaxovid (Novavax) is available in New Zealand.
Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca) and COVID-19 vaccine Janssen are also licensed but are not currently available in NZ.
There are two formulations of Comirnaty:
Approval for use in younger age groups is awaiting clinical trial outcomes.
For details on storage and preparation of these vaccines please refer to the most current advice found here on the covid.immune.org.nz website.
Comirnaty requires ultra-cold storage (at -90°C to -60°C) to prevent degradation. Frozen vials are transported in containers containing dry-ice and then transferred to designated ultra-cold freezer facilities.
Comirnaty is latex-free. The vial stopper is made with synthetic rubber (bromobutyl), not natural rubber latex.
Pregnant people are encouraged to have Comirnaty at any stage of pregnancy. COVID-19 in pregnancy can be very severe and can require intensive care and preterm delivery of the baby (see IMAC COVID-19 website for further information).
Clinical trial data and real-world data from vaccination programmes using this vaccine indicate a good safety profile. As it does not contain live virus, it is suitable for use in those with compromised immune systems and older adults. There are no medical conditions or medications that are contraindicated for Comirnaty (except those given below). Safety is being closely monitored globally.
Vaccine should not be given to:
Ensure a 15-minute post vaccination wait and clear post vaccination advice is given. A definite history of any immediate allergic reaction to any other product is a precaution but not a contraindication to vaccination with Comirnaty. In this case, 30 minutes is recommended for observation post vaccination.
The safety profile of Comirnaty is like that of other vaccines given in New Zealand. Some people experience mild to moderate discomfort at the injection-site and flu-like symptoms (such as headache, muscle and joint aches, fever) for just a day or two after vaccination. These are more commonly reported after the second dose and in younger adults. This is an expected response not experienced by everyone.
A rare risk of myocarditis or pericarditis following vaccination with Comirnaty, particularly seen in young males age 12-30 years and following the second dose, has been identified. Most cases are mild but many require hospital assessment and occur within a week of vaccination. It is important to inform consumers to be alert to signs of chest discomfort, shortness of breath or palpitations/fluttering of heart, and to seek medical help.
For further information see our COVID-19 education website.
Preliminary data from pivotal phase III clinical trial from age 16 years (included just under 44,000 vaccinated and unvaccinated placebo controls) and from Israeli vaccination programme (included around 1.2 million vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals age from 16 years) show that this vaccine is highly effective at preventing COVID-19.
Further data is continually being reported and a range of clinical trials are ongoing in special groups, including pregnant women, immunocompromised and children.
Initial data indicates that effectiveness against infection with the Omicron variant and mild COVID-19 symptoms is lower than seen with previous variants but vaccination continues to be highly protective against severe disease, hospitalisation and death.