COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announces free Pfizer booster shots available from November 29

Free Pfizer booster shots will be available from November 29 for those who had their second dose six months ago, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins has announced. 

The Government's medicine regulator Medsafe has already approved the use of Pfizer as a booster for people who are 18 or older. But Hipkins says there is "no need to rush" to get a third dose. 

"The science shows fully vaccinated people remain really well protected from infection, and from being seriously ill if they do get COVID-19," he said on Monday. 

"Our healthcare and border workers are a priority group for booster vaccine doses because they're on the front line against COVID-19 and because large numbers of them completed their vaccine course six months or longer ago. 

"We will also be making sure older people including people in residential care have good access to booster doses when they become eligible."

Hipkins said there are currently 144,000 people in New Zealand who have been vaccinated for six months and 455,847 who will be by the end of the year. But the boosters will be available for everyone. 

"While most other countries are rationing boosters to certain groups, we have made the decision to make boosters available to everyone. That ensures simplicity and equity."

Hipkins said booster shots will "support" the COVID Protection Framework, or 'traffic light' system, when it replaces the alert levels. 

Under the traffic light system, freedoms will be determined by vaccine certificates. For example, when Auckland enters the 'red' light, hospitality venues can open with up to 100 fully vaccinated people, but businesses that choose not to use certificates must remain contactless. 

Hipkins confirmed, however, that booster shots are not "currently" required to get a vaccine certificate.

For people who are immuno-suppressed and receiving a third dose of Pfizer as part of their primary vaccinations, they will need to wait at least six months after the third dose.

The latest Ministry of Health data shows 90 percent of the eligible population have had at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine, while 81 percent are fully vaccinated.