How fast could New Zealand get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Drug company Pfizer is applying for Emergency Use Authorisation for its COVID vaccine in the US - if approved, the US says it's ready to distribute millions of doses almost immediately.

New Zealand has a deal for 1.5 million doses of it - so how fast could we get it?

In the race to get a vaccine out in public it looks like Pfizer is the hot favourite.

Pfizer and BioNTech intend to file for Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) at the FDA on Saturday and the White House Coronavirus Taskforce is saying the vaccines are ready to ship throughout the US.

Once EUA comes, 24 hours later, the vaccination will be distributed to American people.

"We have 1.5-million doses on order," said chief executive of Operation Warpspeed Gustave Perna. 

 "It's a two-shot vaccine so that will be enough to immunise 750,000 people most at risk."  

But down here in New Zealand we'll have to wait months. In a statement, Megan Woods says the speed at which America is pushing out vaccines "reflects the emergency situation the United States is facing with widespread and accelerating COVID-19 cases in their community". 

Hot on the heels of Pfizer is the Moderna vaccine -  its phase three trials are ongoing, but not yet approved.  

For vaccine development, this is warp speed - but US immunologist Anthony Fauci says the speed doesn't compromise safety. 

"The process of the speed did not compromise at all safety, nor did it compromise scientific integrity.  It was a reflection of the extraordinary scientific advances."

But speed is of the essence - COVID hospitalisations in the US are up more than 100 percent in the past month. 

And there are further concerns as 50 million Americans plan to travel for Thanksgiving this weekend 

A third vaccine is offering yet more encouraging news. UK trials for the Oxford vaccine show it's highly effective in those aged over 70, the most vulnerable.

As New Zealand saw in Christchurch at Rosewood rest home where 11 people died, getting a vaccine that works really well in the elderly is vital. Final results for the Oxford vaccine are expected before Christmas.

The New Zealand Government is working on a portfolio of vaccines. When the first ones become approved and available, we will need a workforce ready to administer them.

Director of the Immunisation Advisory Centre Professor Nikki Turner told Newshub training has begun.

"We've been expanding it into trainee nurses, medical students, much broader into our pharmacist pool, so training much more pharmacists, and other allied people with vocationally trained health degrees." 

Almost 2000 extra vaccinators have been trained up in recent months, ready to go, as soon as the vaccines are available.