New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern has fulfilled her promise to obtain a surge of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for New Zealand, with the aim of vaccinating every consenting individual by the end of 2021.
On Wednesday, the New Zealand government confirmed it would receive 2.5 million doses of the vaccine across July and August, enough to partially vaccinate half the country.
The arrival of the much-needed vials comes as the country plans a dramatic lift-off of its under-fire vaccine rollout.
NZ sits 125th in the world, behind Australia, for doses administered per capita.
COVID-19 Minister Chris Hipkins said he was delighted to receive word from Pfizer on its shipment plans, which will enable mass vaccination events from the end of the month.
“It’s fantastic news for the overall program and of course for New Zealanders who are awaiting their vaccines,” he said in Wellington’s Beehive on Wednesday.
“The surge that Australia is getting is coming in on the fourth quarter as a result of their decision after us to increase their Pfizer doses, as a result of (Australia’s) decision to scale back on the AstraZeneca vaccine deliveries,” he said.
Ms Ardern sidestepped the question on whether it had beaten Australia to the punch, instead of saying she wanted to fulfil her own pledge to vaccinate every consenting Kiwi by Christmas.
“We’ve secured enough for New Zealand’s population this year,” she said.
“By October we have those deliveries that we make it possible for every New Zealander to access a vaccine.
“Then it’s a matter of moving people through the system across their time frames.”
According to new research, the latest data shows Kiwis’ willingness to get a vaccine has been rising steadily with the percentage of New Zealanders intending to get vaccinated now at 81% – the highest level yet, up from 77% in April and 69% in March.
In two weeks, the south Auckland suburb of Manakau – which lies near the country’s major international airport and has borne the brunt of leaks from the border regime – will host the first mass vaccinations.
Mr Hipkins said the government wanted to deliver 15,000 doses at the Vodafone Events Centre over three days, testing capacity for the upscaling to follow.
Since February, NZ has delivered just 1.4 million doses of vaccine in a deliberately slow-starting rollout which buys the Ministry of Health time to recruit a workforce and plan.
The news will also be welcomed by the New Zealand travel and tourism industry, who like their Australian counterparts, have continued to suffer financially from frequent pauses to the trans-Tasman bubble arrangement since it began on April 19.
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