Sydney, Australia, Dec 17 (efe-epa).- New Zealand plans to immunize its population of around 5 million against Covid-19 for free in the second quarter of 2021, the country’s prime minister announced Thursday, after confirming the purchase of some 18 million doses of two vaccines.
“We expect vaccines to be delivered to our front line workers in the second quarter of 2021,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement.
“Our aim is to then commence vaccination of the general public in the second half of the year (…) This will be a sustained roll out over months, not weeks,” she added.
Health workers and border control workers will be the first to be inoculated, added Ardern, whose government has been praised for its rapid and strong response to the pandemic.
The government also said it had purchased 7.6 million doses of vaccines from AstraZeneca (United Kingdom/Sweden) and another 10.72 million from Novavax (United States).
It already had agreements in place to purchase 750,000 doses of vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech (US/Germany) and 5 million from Janssen (Belgium).
The Oceanian country also revealed a plan to support vaccine access for fellow South Pacific countries.
“If (the four vaccines purchased are) proven to be safe and effective by New Zealand’s pharmaceuticals regulator Medsafe, they will provide broad population coverage for New Zealand and our Pacific neighbors,” Ardern said in a statement.
Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said NZ$75 million ($53.5 million) had been earmarked to support Pacific and global vaccine access and roll-out.
The government’s approach will be to purchase enough vaccines to cover the Realm of New Zealand (Tokelau, Niue, Cook Islands) and its Polynesian neighbors (Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu) should their governments wish to take them.
“Pacific countries have worked hard to keep Covid-19 out, or to stamp it out, and New Zealand has been committed to supporting them in this,” Mahuta said. “But their success has been hard-won. A safe and effective vaccine will be key to the region’s economic and social recovery.”
New Zealand, the government pf which closed the borders in March with only 50 confirmed cases and imposed one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, has recorded 1,744 confirmed cases and 25 deaths. EFE-EPA