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NZ and Australia working together to get access to Covid vaccine for Pacific neighbours

The New Zealand Government has set aside hundreds of millions of dollars to access a Covid-19 vaccine as soon as it becomes available, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods announced today.

The Prime Minister said she was in talks with world leaders about global vaccine development, including Angela Merkel, Justin Trudeau and Scott Morrison.

“We are working particularly closely with Australia to ensure we are connected to all parts of vaccine development, distribution and use, as well as our Pacific neighbours to elevate their voices.

“In May we set out our vaccine strategy, which includes contributing to the global effort, actively working with our Australian neighbours, domestic research, and investing in our own manufacturing capability.”

“As the World Health Organisation says, vaccine nationalism only helps the virus. Collaboration is our strength and when we find a vaccine, it must be available to everyone,” Jacinda Ardern said.

Research Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wearing masks during their visit to the Malaghan Institute of Medical Reasearch. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Minister Woods said the funding would enable early access to promising vaccine candidates.

“Our approach to obtaining a Covid-19 vaccine is different to how we’d usually operate, but these are extraordinary times that warrant new and innovative approaches being used. We need to act early to secure our ability to purchase promising vaccine candidates and are already in conversation with a number of vaccine providers.”

Minister Woods emphasised the collaborative effort with Australia to ensure access of the vaccine to the Pacific, although details were vague.

“The Task Force is well-connected with our Australian neighbours, and we are actively working together to get access to a vaccine for our two countries and our Pacific neighbours.”

The extra funding comes from the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund, however the specific amount remains undisclosed because of commercial sensitivity.

Scott Morrison and Charlot Salwai opening the Port Vila Urban Development Project. Photo: Australian High Commission, Vanuatu

Last week Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison promised to distribute a Covid-19 vaccine to the Pacific, if Australia develops a supply of working drugs.

An agreement was struck between the Australian Government and UK-based drug company AstraZeneca to locally produce a vaccine, which is being trialled at Oxford University.

“However, there is no guarantee that this, or any other, vaccine will be successful, which is why we are continuing our discussions with many parties around the world while backing our own researchers at the same time to find a vaccine,” Scott Morrison explained.

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