Coalition allocates hundreds of millions more to Covid-19 vaccine strategy

By Jessica Tyson

The Coalition government has allocated hundreds of millions of dollars to access a Covid-19 vaccine as soon as it becomes available. However, specifics of the funding cannot be disclosed due to commercial sensitivity as it could prevent the best possible deal for New Zealanders.

Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods says the funding will enable the government to secure access to promising vaccine candidates, alongside joining initiatives such as the global COVAX Facility.

COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the World Health Organisation. Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of Covid-19 vaccines and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.

“Our approach to obtaining a Covid-19 vaccine is different from 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 buy promising vaccine candidates and are already in conversation with a number of vaccine providers," Woods says.

Woods says governments around the world are using buying arrangements to secure supply, and this will be a key mechanism for helping New Zealand to gain access to Covid-19 vaccines.

The funding announced today is in addition to the $37 million vaccine strategy released in May to support domestic and international work.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the strategy includes contributing to the global effort, actively working with Australia, domestic research and investing in New Zealand’s own manufacturing capability.

This initial funding has gone toward New Zealand joining the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations Investors’ Council with an initial investment of $15 million toward global research efforts. Vaccine Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand – Ohu Kaupare Huaketo will receive $10 million to lead Covid-19 vaccine research to establish a vaccine development and evaluation platform. Local manufacturer Biocell will also receive $3 million to upgrade existing facilities so it has the necessary scale to support global vaccine supply. 

Ardern says, “I’ve been talking to a range of 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.” 

 “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."