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A vaccine to combat the newer strains of COVID-19 will be available to New Zealanders from 7 March 2024.


Pharmac has approved the transition to the updated COVID-19 vaccine for the XBB.1.5 strain to be used in New Zealand from 7 March 2024, says Pharmac’s Director Pharmaceuticals Geraldine MacGibbon.


“We’ve secured stock of the XBB COVID-19 vaccine and are pleased to have it available for New Zealanders. The XBB vaccine is more effective against more recent subvariants of COVID-19 in New Zealand.”

Pharmac is the government agency responsible for deciding which medicines, vaccines, and medical devices are funded for New Zealanders. The COVID-19 vaccine is funded from Pharmac’s fixed pharmaceutical budget, set by the Government.

MacGibbon says, “The XBB vaccine will be funded for these eligible groups:

  • everyone aged 30 years and over
  • people aged 16-29 who are pregnant
  • people aged 12-29 at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.


“We’re not making any changes to who can access the COVID-19 vaccine at this time. If we were to consider changes to the eligibility criteria, we’d consult publicly to ensure feedback from the healthcare sector and the community is considered before making a decision.”


Health New Zealand - Te Whatu Ora leads the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine programme.


Health NZ National Public Health Service National Director, Dr Nick Chamberlain, confirms that COVID-19 is not a seasonal illness, and we’ve seen a rise in COVID-19 cases over the summer. “It’s timely that the updated vaccine will be available from March 7.


“If you’re eligible, you can get a vaccination if it’s been at least six months since your last COVID-19 vaccine or if you have never had one before. It’s recommended that you wait at least six months since your last COVID-19 infection.”


Dr Chamberlain says, “The XBB vaccine is especially recommended for those who are more likely to get seriously unwell if they get COVID-19.” 


This includes:

  • people aged 65 and older
  • Māori and Pacific people aged 50 and older
  • residents of aged care facilities
  • severely immunocompromised people aged 12 years and older
  • people aged 12 years and over who have a medical condition that increases the risk of severe illness from COVID-19.


People who have had the previous COVID-19 vaccination are still expected to have protection against severe disease from recent Omicron subvariants.


Those due for a COVID-19 vaccine can book a vaccine for themselves, a family member, or a group on or call 0800 28 29 26 – 8:30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. You can also contact your local pharmacy, doctor, nurse or healthcare provider.


We continue to strongly encourage the public to follow this advice about COVID-19:

  • Stay at home if you are feeling unwell.
  • Test with a RAT if you develop one or more of the following COVID-19 symptoms: a runny nose, sore throat, cough, fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, headache, loss of smell or taste, shortness of breath. 
  • Continue to report your RAT result at (or call the RAT helpline on 0800 222 478). Reporting a positive result enables you to be connected with any help and support you may need and provides vital insight on the number of active COVID-19 cases across the motu.
  • If you test positive for COVID-19, it is recommended that you isolate for at least 5 days, even if you only have mild symptoms, starting at Day 0.

o       This includes if you have had COVID-19 before.

o       Day 0 is the day symptoms started or when you first tested positive, whichever came first.

o       You should not go to work or school, and should discuss any return to work or school with your employer or child’s school principal, as they may require additional precautions.

o       For 10 days you should stay away from healthcare facilities, aged residential care facilities, or anyone at risk of getting seriously unwell with COVID-19. If you must visit, phone ahead and remember to wear a mask.


  • Household contacts are recommended to continue to test daily for 5 days using a RAT.
  • Wearing a face mask remains to be an important way we can prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses in health and disability care settings. It is recommended you wear one when visiting healthcare services and when you are around people who are at higher risk of getting very sick. This includes older people and kaumātua, babies, people living in aged residential care facilities, unwell or sick patients in hospital, people with other health conditions and disabled people. Mask wearing is also encouraged when you are in closed, crowded and confined spaces.
  • Do not visit elderly people if you are sick even if your RAT was negative. Visiting of elderly people when you are sick should only be done if the situation is critical and cannot be delayed until you are well.  In this situation you should wear a mask and seek advice from the facility.
  • People with a high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 are eligible for treatment with COVID-19 antiviral medicines. People can access these medicines if they: 

o  Have COVID-19 and symptoms, and 

o  Became sick within the last 5 days, and 

o  Are eligible for the medicine. 

The latest information about COVID-19 vaccines is available on the Te Whatu Ora websiteCOVID-19 vaccines | Health Information and Services




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