Sydney, Australia, Oct 12 (efe-epa).- The New Zealand government has signed an agreement to purchase 1.5 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine being manufactured by the German pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech.
If the vaccine completes all clinical trials and passes New Zealand regulatory approvals, as per the agreement, it could be ready in the first quarter of 2021, the country’s government said Monday.
“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,” said Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods in a statement.
It is the first vaccine deal New Zealand has made, and would be enough for 750,000 people. However, it remains to be decided who will be the first to receive access.
The cost of the vaccine deal was not revealed.
The government is also continuing negotiations with other pharmaceutical companies to ensure the acquisition of sufficient supply for its 5 million citizens.
“The additional agreements will ensure that once the portfolio is completed, we will have sufficient COVID-19 vaccines for the whole population,” Woods said, anticipating further announcements in November.
The deal is part of the country’s COVID-19 Vaccine Strategy, which also includes contributions to the global COVAX facility, which the government says could provide up to 50 percent of the 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 neighbors,” Woods said.
Health Minister Chris Hipkins said in the statement that the government has 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,” Hipkins added.
New Zealand, whose government has been praised for its effective management of the virus, has accumulated a total of 1,515 COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, including 25 deaths.
The Oceanian country is back to a “new normal” with restrictions eased and no local transmissions, but with 45 active cases, all among people arriving from abroad. EFE-EPA