Government caught out by legal ruling on vaccine rollout announces law change

A New Zealand High Court judge is siding with campaigners who say the government’s rollout of the covid vaccine is “problematic”.

Nga Kaitiaki Tuku Ihu Medical Action Society Incorporated, represented in court by lawyer Sue Grey, challenged the Minister of Health in the High Court at Wellington last week.

Grey said the Ministry’s provisional authorisation of the Pfizer covid vaccine – under section 23 of the Medicines Act – was designed for emergency use only, so a new drug could be given to a limited number of people who were out of options for fully approved  treatments.

This section of the law was not to be used for the rushed roll out of untested drugs to the whole population.

Judge Rebecca Ellis said: “…It is reasonably arguable that the decision to provisionally approve the vaccine for much wider use [all New Zealanders] is problematic”.

Having been caught out, the government reacted to the judgment saying it will change the law so untested drugs can be given freely. All covid vaccines are still in the trial phase (which ends in 2023).

Health Minister Andrew Little says the Government is making an urgent amendment to “modernise the law”, and said section 23 had been used over 40 years to grant early access to approved medicines when there was public good.

Sue Grey says the judge had agreed that everyone in New Zealand over 16 is not a limited number of patients.

NZ Herald story here.