New Zealand has entered a legally binding agreement for the option to purchase vaccines for up to 50 per cent of the population, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today.
“This will take place via the COVAX facility… which aims to accelerate the development and manufacture of Covid-19 vaccines and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world” Ardern said.
COVAX is co-led by WHO and vaccine alliance Gavi.
It was one of a number of “key steps” New Zealand was taking to access vaccines when it becomes available, Ardern said.
In May, Cabinet announced $37 million of the Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund would be invested to secure an effective and safe vaccine in sufficient quantities at the earliest possible time.
Ardern said a $27 million initial investment would allow the country to pool funding at the global level.
“This investment would give us the option to purchase from a diverse portfolio of vaccine candidates, should any prove successful.”
She added: “More will be invested as our vaccine strategy rolls out.”
Ardern said as there were only plans to fund up to 50 per cent as part of the existing agreement, it wouldn’t be the last arrangement New Zealand entered. She said Cabinet had set aside “hundreds of millions of dollars” for other deals.
She said investing in COVAX showed the country’s commitment to getting vaccines to “vulnerable communities”, like in the Pacific.
The vaccine would also be available to residents of the Cook Islands, Tokelau and Niue.
It comes as Ardern announced Auckland will move to Alert Level 2 on Wednesday at 11.59pm, while the Alert Level for the rest of the country will be lowered to Level 1 tonight.