COVID-19 vaccines

With the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out across Aotearoa New Zealand in full swing, we are curating a list of annotated links to trusted information about COVID-19 vaccines.

For comprehensive, accessible information and the latest updates on COVID-19 vaccines generally, we recommend the three resources below. Alternatively, scroll down to find links related to specific questions or areas of interest.

How do vaccines work?

This article from the World Health Organization (WHO) explains how vaccines work with the immune system to protect us from pathogens, and why it is important to vaccinate lots of people within a community.

Read the WHO article ‘How do vaccines work?’

This short video from Nature (above) explains how vaccines train the immune system to protect us from disease, outlines the role of herd immunity, and describes different approaches to vaccine design.

A gif describing the three main strategies for making a vaccine.

This article from Dr Siouxsie Wiles with graphics by Toby Morris (see above) explains the different approaches to vaccine design.

Read the article ‘The race for a COVID-19 vaccine, explained’ on The Spinoff

Aotearoa New Zealand’s vaccine portfolio

Aotearoa New Zealand currently has agreements to purchase COVID-19 vaccines from four different suppliers:

More information on these four vaccines from the Ministry of Health

Aotearoa New Zealand has now secured 10 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in total. This is enough for 5 million people to get the two doses of the vaccine they need against COVID-19.

An infographic describing how RNA vaccines work

Click image to enlarge. Image credit: Compound Interest.


The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is RNA-based and is approved for use by Medsafe. The first shipment of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has arrived in Aotearoa New Zealand and is currently being rolled out to border workers.

Watch: Dr Ian Town explains how the mRNA vaccine works

How the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 works – article by Dr Siouxsie Wiles and Toby Morris for The Spinoff

How the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine works – interactive from The New York Times

How Pfizer makes its COVID-19 vaccine – interactive from The New York Times

An infographic describing how viral vector vaccines work

Click image to enlarge. Image credit: Compound Interest.

AstraZeneca and Janssen

Both the Janssen and AstraZeneca vaccines use a non-replicating viral vector.

How the AstraZeneca/University of Oxford vaccine works – interactive from the The New York Times

How the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine works – interactive from The New York Times


The Novavax vaccine uses a protein subunit approach.

How the Novavax vaccine works – interactive from The New York Times

Aotearoa New Zealand’s vaccine roll-out

COVID-19 vaccines will be free and voluntary in Aotearoa New Zealand. The Ministry of Health has comprehensive and regularly updated information about the planned vaccine roll-out, including information on timing and priority groups.

‘How vaccinations will work’ on the Ministry of Health site

‘Getting a COVID-19 vaccine’ on Unite against COVID-19

How many people need to be vaccinated before NZ can get back to normal? An article by Thomas Lumley, Professor of Biostatistics, on The Spinoff

Who will get the vaccine first?

The vaccine will become available in stages, with border workers the first group to be vaccinated, followed by their household contacts. If the alert level changes, the timing of vaccine roll-out may change according to different planning scenarios.

See the vaccine sequencing scenarios in this infographic (PDF, 33KB)


An infographic showing the approximate timing of NZ's vaccine roll-out

Click image to enlarge. Image credit: Science Media Centre NZ.

Vaccine safety

This explainer from WHO breaks down the different ingredients found in vaccines and steps the reader through the clinical trial process.

Read the WHO article ‘How are vaccines developed?’

In Aotearoa New Zealand, a vaccine must be approved by Medsafe before it can be rolled out. Medsafe examines all available data to determine if a vaccine meets international and local requirements for safety, efficacy and quality. Read more at the links below or watch the video of a kōrero between Dr Ashley Bloomfield and Medsafe’s Chris James.

Read about ‘Vaccine safety and approval’ from the Ministry of Health

‘Making sure COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective’ – Unite against COVID-19

Learn about the Vaccine Safety Monitoring Process from Medsafe

Vaccine equity

Aotearoa New Zealand’s strategy includes supporting equitable vaccine distribution internationally, and in particular helping our Pacific neighbours. This includes purchasing sufficient vaccine doses to cover our six Polynesian Health Corridors partners.

Read about Aotearoa New Zealand’s vaccine strategy

See who the Ministry of Health is working with

The Government has invested $27 million in the COVAX Facility to accelerate the development, manufacture and fair distribution of new COVID-19 vaccines.

Learn more about the COVAX Facility


What about new variants?

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, accumulates new mutations in its genetic sequence over time, resulting in new ‘variants’. If enough mutations accumulate in specific locations, this can change the properties of the virus.

Two new variants of concern have emerged recently, with evidence mounting that these are more transmissible.

Scientists are working hard to figure out whether current vaccines will still be effective, with some vaccine developers already beginning to design booster shots to target the new variants.

Where are we on vaccines and variants? Article in The BMJ

Take an interactive look inside the B.1.1.7 variant with The New York Times

A Stat News health reporter breaks down what scientists know about variants and COVID-19 vaccines

More information from The Guardian on variants and vaccine resistance

Watch the video below for a Q&A on variants with Ministry of Health Chief Science Advisor Professor Ian Town.

An infographic describing three SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern

Click image to enlarge. Image credit: European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

The COVID-19 vaccine landscape

There are at least 293 different COVID-19 vaccine candidates in development around the world, with 10 currently in use in various jurisdictions.

The COVID-19 vaccine landscape is rapidly evolving. The following resources are tracking the progression of vaccine candidates through the clinical trial pipeline.

More resources


In this video (above), Dr Nikki Turner, Director of the Immunisation Advisory Centre at the University of Auckland, answers some key questions about COVID-19 vaccines.

The Immunisation Advisory Centre also has comprehensive FAQs, including information on safety and vaccine ingredients.

Read the FAQs from the Immunisation Advisory Centre

Vaccinologist Dr Helen Petousis-Harris chats about COVID-19 vaccines.

This short video from the Australian Academy of Science explains the difference between efficacy and safety. The Australian Academy of Science regularly produces accessible videos and articles on COVID-19, fact-checked by experts.

See all the COVID-19 content from the Australian Academy of Science

An infographic showing that 66% of people worldwide support COVID-19 vaccines, 12% are vaccine hesitant, 11% would only get the vaccine if they were obligated to, 11% are vaccine skeptical and 1.4% are anti-vaxxer.

Click image to enlarge. Image credit: Visual Capitalist.

Last updated: 30 April 2021