Coronavirus: Vaccine time frame like asking how long a piece of string is - Science, Research and Innovation Minister Megan Woods

Questioning how long it might be until a coronavirus vaccine is produced is like asking "how long a piece of string is", according to Megan Woods.

The Science, Research, and Innovation Minister's comments come after the Government announced on Tuesday it would pump nearly $40 million into research for a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the COVID-19 respiratory disease.

Asked by The AM Show host Ryan Bridge what time frame the world was looking at for a vaccine to be delivered Woods said, "I think you've just asked me how long a piece of string is".

"We know the global efforts are underway from research labs all across the world," Woods said on Wednesday.

"Some people are saying there'll be a vaccine by September this year. As we heard Dr Ashley Bloomfield say yesterday, [that's] highly unlikely."

The funding came after a warning from health experts that New Zealand could be far down the list when it comes to dishing out the doses.

Professor Miguel Quiñones-Mateu, of the University of Otago microbiology department, told Newshub last month he believed waiting out the pandemic and relying on a vaccine or drugs from overseas was the wrong approach.

Woods said it's vital New Zealand contributes.

"There is hope that in 12 to 18 months there will be a vaccine but what our announcement was about yesterday [Tuesday] was making sure New Zealand is well-placed as soon as there is a vaccine found," she told The AM Show.

"The world won't be able to be supplied out of one place and our best insurance to make sure that we've got early and good access to a vaccine is to be able to make it here.

"We've got some good relationships that we can build on. Pharmac has good purchasing relationships with various suppliers," said Woods, adding that puts New Zealand in a "good place" when a vaccine is found.

She said our scientists are world-class.

"It's also about our scientists being right there with these international groups and making sure we've got good eyes and ears on what's happening around the world," Woods said.

"We absolutely have the knowledge. We have world-class researchers in this area.

"There will have to be an immunisation plan that will be drawn up as there is for any vaccine that comes in and what we're doing is getting ahead of that."

Excitement is brewing in the scientific community about the moves to secure the vaccine. Otago University's Richard Blaikie told Newshub it was a huge step in the right direction and is confident New Zealand is on the right track.