First COVID-19 vaccine purchase agreement signed

The Government has signed an agreement to purchase 1.5 million COVID-19 vaccines – enough for 750,000 people – from Pfizer and BioNTech, subject to the vaccine successfully completing all clinical trials and passing regulatory approvals in New Zealand, say Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods and Health Minister Chris Hipkins.

“Our first vaccine purchase agreement has been signed and it brings to fruition some of the critical work going on behind the scenes to keep New Zealanders safe from COVID-19,” says Megan Woods.

“As part of the agreement, vaccine delivery to New Zealand could be as early as the first quarter of 2021. This is just the first tranche of work in a multi-pronged approach to ensuring we secure vaccines for New Zealanders.

Megan Woods says “Pfizer have said they are making good progress with the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. Subject to clinical and regulatory success, and provided the vaccine is approved for use here in New Zealand by Medsafe, it is possible that some doses will be available to us in the first part of 2021.”

The agreement with Pfizer is complementary to other aspects of the Government’s COVID-19 Vaccine Strategy, such as the global COVAX Facility that could provide up to 50 percent of our population’s needs.

“A key aim of our portfolio approach is to ensure we have flexibility and choice when it comes to securing the right vaccines for New Zealand and our Pacific neighbours.”

Megan Woods said the COVID-19 Vaccine Strategy Task Force is currently negotiating with other pharmaceutical companies, and further announcements are expected in November.  “The agreement with Pfizer and BioNTech is the first of a number of negotiations underway as part of our portfolio approach, and good progress is being made in relation to other purchasing negotiations. The additional agreements will ensure that once the portfolio is completed, we will have sufficient COVID-19 vaccines for the whole population,” said Megan Woods.

Decisions on who would receive access to the first available vaccines have yet to be made.

“Work at the Ministry of Health is currently underway to determine what an Immunisation Programme roll-out might look like. A number of factors will influence who will receive what vaccines and when, such as trial data on the suitability of each vaccine for certain age groups,” says Chris Hipkins, Minister of Health.

“We have set aside $66.3 million for medical supplies and infrastructure to ensure New Zealand is ready to launch a COVID-19 Immunisation Programme as soon as we have a safe and effective vaccine.

“Most of this investment will pay for sufficient supplies to support New Zealand and Pacific Realm countries; supplies such as PPE, needles, syringes and swabs, and freezers to store a vaccine,” says Chris Hipkins.