Coronavirus: New Zealand first to donate COVID-19 vaccines to poor countries at latest fundraiser

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced the country will donate COVID-19 vaccine for 800,000 people via the COVAX dose-sharing facility that aims to protect health workers and other vulnerable people in lower income countries.

She was the first leader to pledge doses at the event held by the Gavi Vaccine Alliance, although European countries including Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden pledged new funds.

"Dose sharing can help us make the best use of available vaccines, and the COVAX Facility provides an efficient and equitable way to share doses with others," Ardern said.

New Zealand's donation of 1.6 million doses of vaccines will be distributed in the Pacific region. COVAX's main vaccine is the one developed by AstraZeneca, which is cheaper to make and easier to store and distribute than most of the others. It also has access to a small number of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab. 

The fundraiser secured more than US$300 million in fresh funds and COVID-19 doses for the COVAX vaccine-sharing facility, USAID acting administrator Gloria Steele said.

"Investment in COVAX is a prerequisite for recovery ... Ending the acute phase of the pandemic is currently the best economic decision for any country," Jose Manuel Barroso, GAVI chair, said after the three-hour event.

The United States, which has contributed US$2 billion to COVAX this year and pledged US$2 billion for next year, did not announce any new commitments.

"We urgently need commitments of a further $2 billion from donors and $1 billion from countries supported by multilateral development banks. Included in the $2 billion we ask for is $150 million from the private sector," Gavi CEO Seth Berkley said.

Reuters / Newshub.