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New Zealand has ordered 15m courses of Covid-19 vaccine from four providers as the country approaches the end of 2020 on a promising note, with a recovering economy and plans to open numerous travel corridors in the new year.
On Thursday, the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, confirmed the treatment would be free for everyone, with health workers and border officials prioritised. The vaccine will be made available in the second quarter of next year.
Ardern said readiness for New Zealand’s “largest-ever immunisation programme” was progressing well, and the country had now pre-ordered vaccines from four providers: 750,000 courses from Pfizer, 5m from Janssen, 3.8m from Oxford/AstraZeneca and 5.36m from Novavax. One course refers to all the doses needed for one person.
Some of the vaccines will be sent to countries in the Pacific. As part of its vaccine 2021 plan the government announced NZ$75m in funding to help Pacific countries vaccinate their populations.
“Never before has the entire globe sought to vaccinate the entire population at the same time,” Ardern said. “This will be a sustained rollout over months, not weeks, but our pre-purchase agreements means New Zealand is well positioned to get on with it as soon as it is proven safe to do so.”
The news came as New Zealand’s economy rebounded in the September quarter, growing 14%. Stats NZ said on Thursday the growth was the strongest quarter in New Zealand’s modern history, coming off the back of an 11% drop in the June quarter.
Finance minister Grant Robertson said the rise was in line with Australia’s recovery and beyond those in the United Kingdom and Japan. “The economic bounceback is a result of our decision to go hard and early during the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
The economic U-turn was widely predicted given the timing of New Zealand’s hard 51-day lockdown from March to May.
Robertson also said unemployment was set to peak at 6.9% at the end of 2021, rather than the 7.8% predicted in September.
“The government’s decision to act quickly in response to the global Covid-19 pandemic has contributed to a better than expected economic recovery,” Robertson said. “While New Zealand’s economy contracted in 2020, it is forecast to rebound strongly in 2021, outperforming regions we compare ourselves to like the euro zone, the United Kingdom and Japan.”
Meanwhile, the government announced talks were progressing with Niue to establish a travel bubble in the new year, following news last week that the Cook Islands and Australia would soon become part of safe travel corridors with New Zealand.
New Zealanders have been able to enter several Australian states for some time without being required to quarantine, but have faced two weeks in quarantine on their return home, at their own expense. The Australian travel bubble is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2021, most likely late March.
The prime minister said it was the government’s policy to purchase multiple types of vaccine as they progressed through the final trial stages, to ensure options were successful.
“This will be New Zealand’s largest immunisation rollout ever. Most countries are factoring the rollout to take all of 2021 and some of 2022 to complete due to its scale and complexity, also due to production and delivery timeframes,” Ardern said.
“Our first priority will be to vaccinate border workers and essential staff who are at the greatest risk of getting Covid-19. We expect vaccines to be delivered to our frontline workers in the second quarter of 2021.”
“Our aim is to then commence vaccination of the general public in the second half of the year. All vaccine roll out will be dependent on Medsafe sign off, which we are streamlining, and speed of manufacture. We are moving as fast as we can, but we also want to ensure the vaccine is safe for New Zealanders.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Ardern unveils New Zealand Covid vaccine deals as economy rebounds | New Zealand