4 Feb 2021

NZ offers assurance to Pacific on vaccines

5:12 pm on 4 February 2021

New Zealand's government has offered some assurance for Pacific leaders in the region on their plans for the Covid-19 vaccine.

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Associate Foreign Affairs Minister Aupito William Sio attended yesterday's virtual Pacific Islands Forum Special Leaders Retreat.

Doctor injecting vaccination in arm of young girl.

Photo: 123RF

Apart from the thorny matter of appointing a new secetary-general, Forum leaders dedicated signficant focus to covid-19 response and vaccination plans.

The New Zealand government has earmarked US$54-million of Official Development Assistance to support Pacific vaccine access, including purchasing, planning, and delivery.

Sio acknowledged the exceptional work that the Pacific region has collectively done in stamping out, and in many cases, eradicating Covid-19.

"When we're buying our vaccine for the people of Aotearoa New Zealand, we're also buying vaccines for the Pacific and so I'm confident that based on the response that I heard that people are confident about the plans that are being prepared."

Pacific Peoples Minister Aupito William Sio

Pacific Peoples Minister Aupito William Sio Photo: Supplied

During the Retreat, Pacific Leaders focussed on Covid-19 recovery and response, and in particular equitable and timely access to safe vaccines for the peoples of the Pacific.

"The Forum plays a vital role in leading collective action on significant issues that affect us all. The health and well-being of Pacific populations and Pacific economic recovery is of utmost importance to New Zealand," Mahuta said.

"We are working closely with Australia and other Pacific Islands Forum Members, as well as our regional partners, to ensure Pacific countries have the total support required to run successful immunisation campaigns."

Nanaia Mahuta

Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Minister Sio reassured the Pacific leaders that there is no issue more compelling and immediate than equitable access to vaccines for everyone in the Pacific.

"New Zealand is committed to ensuring everyone in the Pacific has access to a safe and effective vaccine and we will work across the region with Pacific member states, Australia, WHO, UNICEF, ADB and our external partners to make that happen," Sio said.