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.
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.
This article from Dr Siouxsie Wiles with graphics by Toby Morris (see above) explains the different approaches to vaccine design.
Aotearoa New Zealand’s vaccine portfolio
Aotearoa New Zealand currently has agreements to purchase COVID-19 vaccines from four different suppliers:
- Pfizer/BioNTech (provisionally approved by Medsafe)
- Janssen Pharmaceutica/Johnson & Johnson
- AstraZeneca/University of Oxford
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.
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.
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
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 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.
This explainer from WHO breaks down the different ingredients found in vaccines and steps the reader through the clinical trial process.
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.
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.
The Government has invested $27 million in the COVAX Facility to accelerate the development, manufacture and fair distribution of new COVID-19 vaccines.
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.
Watch the video below for a Q&A on variants with Ministry of Health Chief Science Advisor Professor Ian Town.
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.
- The COVID-19 vaccine media hub is a useful resource for media and the general public. It collates explainers, expert reactions and briefings from science media centres around the world, including the New Zealand Science Media Centre. Visit the COVID-19 vaccine media hub
- The Australian Government has a page called ‘Is it true?’ separating COVID-19 vaccine fact from fiction. Find out ‘Is it true?’ on the Australian Government website
- The Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication, based at the University of Cambridge, has developed some useful charts to visualise the potential benefits and harms of the AstraZeneca vaccine. View the charts comparing potential benefits and harms of the AstraZeneca vaccine
- What’s the difference between efficacy and effectiveness? This handy glossary from The Washington Post explains common vaccine terminology in an easy-to-understand manner. Read the article: Vaccine terms explained
- Different vaccines have different reported efficacy. What do these percentages mean? This explainer from The New York Times has the details. Read the article: What do vaccine efficacy numbers actually mean?
- This resource debunks ten common misconceptions about COVID-19 vaccines, compiled by Emily Writes for The Spinoff, with input from Associate Professor Jo Kirman. Read the article: Ten common misconceptions about the COVID-19 vaccine, debunked
- We know that the vaccines being rolled out around the world can prevent people from being really sick with COVID-19, but we don’t yet know whether they stop transmission of the virus between people. Read the explainer: Can you spread COVID-19 if you get the vaccine?
- The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outlines some myths and facts about COVID-19 vaccines, and answers some FAQs. See the US CDC’s COVID-19 vaccination content
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.
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.
Last updated: 30 April 2021