The main COVID-19 vaccine we use for primary doses in Aotearoa New Zealand — for most people dose 1 and 2 — is made by Pfizer-BioNTech.
It is also known by its brand name, Comirnaty. It is an mRNA-based (messenger ribonucleic acid) vaccine.
The vaccine used is updated according to the strain of COVID-19 circulating in the community at the time.
You should not get the Pfizer vaccine if you have had a severe allergic reaction to this vaccine or its ingredients. Talk to your vaccinator or healthcare provider about your options.
Pfizer paediatric (child) is a vaccine that contains a lower dose of mRNA vaccine. It is:
- for tamariki aged 5 years to 11 years old as a primary vaccination course
- infants aged 6 months to 4 years who are at higher risk of severe disease from COVID-19.
How the Pfizer vaccine works
The Pfizer vaccine (Comirnaty) is an mRNA vaccine that contains the genetic code for an important part of the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) virus called the ‘spike protein’. Spike proteins are the little projections on the surface of the virus.
- Once you have had the vaccine, your body reads the genetic code and makes copies of the spike protein.
- Your immune system detects these spike proteins and learns how to recognise and fight against COVID-19. It knows it needs to attack the virus to protect it from spreading in your body.
The genetic code then gets broken down and removed very quickly and easily by our body.
The Novavax (Nuvaxovid) COVID-19 is a protein-based vaccine. It is a different COVID-19 vaccine option for:
- anyone aged 12 years and over for their primary doses, 3 weeks apart
- for people ages 18 and over for a booster.
You need a prescription if your first primary dose was not Novavax and you want your second primary dose to be Novavax. You can get a prescription at the vaccinating Novavax clinic or before your appointment with your healthcare provider for free.
If you are aged 18 or older, you can get up to 2 Novavax boosters after you finish your primary course.
- Your first Novavax booster is available 6 months after you finished your primary course.
- Your second Novavax booster is available 6 months after your first booster.
If you get COVID-19, it is recommended that you wait 6 months before you get a booster.
Prescriptions are not required for either a first or second Novavax booster dose.
Novavax and pregnancy
There is currently not enough data on Novavax to recommend it during pregnancy.
The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is the preferred option for someone who is pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or breastfeeding.
How the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine works
Novavax (also known as Novaxovid) is a protein-based vaccine. It has 2 doses for the primary course, with a recommended 3 weeks between doses. It is given as an injection into the deltoid or upper arm muscle.
The Novavax vaccine is an adjuvant vaccine that presents recombinant spike protein to the body's immune system. The body reacts by making antibodies that protect against infection from COVID-19.
Vaccine side effects
As with all medicines, you might experience some mild side effects when you get a COVID-19 vaccination. This is common, and a sign that your body is learning to fight the virus.