New Zealand offers $75 million vaccine support to Pacific

The New Zealand government has announced NZ$75 million in development assistance to support Pacific Island nations including Samoa access a COVID-19 vaccine.

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Associate Foreign Affairs Minister Aupito William Sio announced in a joint statement issued in Wellington on Thursday that New Zealand is preparing to support its Pacific partners access safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines at the earliest opportunity.

“Pacific countries have worked hard to keep COVID-19 out, or to stamp it out, and New Zealand has been committed to supporting them in this,” Ms Mahuta said. “But their success has been hard-won. A safe and effective vaccine will be key to the region’s economic and social recovery.”

Ms Mahuta confirmed that NZ$75 million in official development assistance had been earmarked to support Pacific and global vaccine access and roll-out.

“New Zealand is pursuing a portfolio of potential COVID-19 vaccines to ensure we have flexibility and choice in the fast-moving global marketplace,” added the Minister.

“We want to make sure Pacific countries can also access suitable options, and have the support they need to run successful immunisation campaigns.”

Aupito added that New Zealand’s support has to be flexible, given the uncertainties around vaccine development and the country will be able to purchase sufficient vaccines to cover New Zealand-realm nations Tokelau, Niue and Cook Islands as well as Polynesian neighbours Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu should these countries’ respective governments agree to take the offer.

“We are best placed to support these countries directly because of our constitutional relationships in the Realm, and the strong links between our health systems and our close people-to-people ties across Polynesia,” Aupito said. “We will also be scaling up existing health investments to enable us to play our part in vaccine roll-out.”

Included in the NZ$75 million support package is New Zealand plans to make a further $10 million contribution to the COVAX Facility Advance Market Commitment, which is the key multilateral mechanism that has emerged to support equitable global access. 

New Zealand is also ready to contribute to wider Pacific regional initiatives as they take shape, its government emphasised in a statement.

The announcement by Ms Mahuta and Aupito follows their government’s advise that it will purchase COVID-19 vaccines from pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca and Novavax.

This means every New Zealander will be able to be vaccinated, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Thursday.

The new agreements secure access to 7.6 million doses from AstraZeneca – enough for 3.8 million people, and 10.72 million doses from Novavax– enough for 5.36 million people. Both vaccines require two doses to be administered.

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