COVID-19: New Zealand's Pfizer vaccine approval challenged in High Court

New Zealand's approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is being challenged in the High Court with a group of medical people and citizens arguing the legality of its rollout.

They claim the provisional consent given by the Health Minister means the vaccine should only be used on a restricted basis for a limited number of people - not for the entire rollout.

The Government has bought 10 million doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine - enough to vaccinate everyone in New Zealand.

Armed with signs and banners, supporters of Nga Kaitiaki Tuku Ihu Medical Society stood outside the High Court at Wellington on Wednesday to watch the legal challenge.

"It's just amazing to show that people do care about freedom of speech," lawyer Sue Gray said.

The High Court had to make a second court room available for the public to watch via video link.

Before the hearing began, court security warned them they were there to witness and watch and not to get involved.  

With the rules set, the applicant's lawyers argued the provisional consent given by the Health Minister only covers the vaccine's use on a restricted basis for a limited number of patients - not the entire population.

"It has not been lawfully given because this particular medicine - this vaccine has been approved for those aged 16 and over," lawyer Warren Pyke told the court.

But the Crown says the correct process was followed to grant a provisional consent.

"The respondent says this is part of the minister's evaluative exercise rather than being a restriction," Crown lawyer Jessica Gorman said.

The respondents are a long list of ministers and health officials including Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins is also a respondent and stands by the Government's actions.

"We didn't use an emergency approval process," he told reporters on Wednesday. "I'm absolutely confident in the process we followed. 

"I'm absolutely confident this is a safe vaccine."