9 Mar 2021

Covid-19: Pacific countries talking to government about vaccine preferences - Jacinda Ardern

From Morning Report, 7:25 am on 9 March 2021

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the government is talking with neighbours in the pacific about which vaccine they will be taking.

The government has completed another bulk purchase of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, with an additional 8.5 million doses will arrive in the second half of the year, creating enough for five million people to get the two jabs needed to be fully protected against Covid-19.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said on Monday consideration was also being given to how best to use vaccine doses that would not end up being needed in New Zealand.

"We are working on options for donating surplus doses across our wider portfolio to the Pacific and developing countries worldwide.

 Ardern told Morning Report on Tuesday not every pacific country will want the Pfizer vaccine, which requires storage at temperatures between -80ºC and -60ºC.

"The conversation we're having right now with our Pacific neighbours, is what is it that they would like to do, what's their preference.

"Some already expressing some desire to see whether or not the logistics of Pfizer might be possible.

"Some of our neighbours have infrastructure that might mean that's possible, others are expressing a view that they would prefer to have a single dose option, and one that doesn't have the ultra cold storage requirements around it."

Easing restrictions

Ardern also said New Zealand could start to move away from the alert levels system once around 80 percent of the population was vaccinated.

View of a vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19 at the Versalles Clinic, in Cali, Colombia, on February 19, 2021. (Photo by Luis ROBAYO / AFP)

Photo: AFP

It means eventually there will be less stress every time Covid-19 appears in the community.

"We will move to a situation, I've said this a few times, where we start treating Covid-19 like the flu," she said.

Ardern noted at the moment elimination is the most important way to manage the virus as the public currently have no protection for it.

"Unless we get on top of it in an elimination strategy, the whole reason we worry about that is one case can become 100 cases."

She said it was important that everyone who can get the vaccine gets one.

"If we get to the point where we have a significant portion of the population who can be vaccinated are vaccinated that means that we provide immunity and protection for others."

Ardern said moving to Pfizer as a primary vaccine provider has simplified matters and she expects the country to reach herd immunity by the end of this year.