Coronavirus: New Zealand, Australia may produce COVID-19 vaccine together

New Zealand may work with Australia to help research, develop and produce a COVID-19 vaccine, the Ministry of Health has revealed.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield was asked on Wednesday whether he was worried New Zealand might be down the pecking order for a cure to the virus, but he said he "will make sure" that doesn't happen.

"I'm not concerned about it because we will make sure that we're not [down the pecking order], and I think there are a couple of ways we can do that. But predominantly that will be making sure we work closely with Australia, which is undertaking research," he said during the daily COVID-19 press conference.

Dr Bloomfield says the Health Research Council has put out the call for COVID-19 research funding proposals and it will make an announcement later this week on who it will support.

"There may be some vaccine research that we can also do here, and I think we will look to working really closely with Australia around research, development and then production of a vaccine," he says.

There is currently no vaccine that can be widely used to treat COVID-19. However, the World Health Organization says there are three candidate vaccines in clinical testing, meaning they can be tested on humans, and 67 potential vaccines are in preclinical evaluation.

A mass vaccination campaign is likely to be ready in 12 to 18 months, The Guardian reports, but a more experimental yet safe and effective vaccine could be available within weeks or months. But it's likely in this instance that it would be rolled out to limited high-risk groups such as health workers.