Government pledges $37m to help secure COVID-19 vaccine, joining global effort 'well underway'

The Government is pledging $37 million to secure a COVID-19 vaccine "at the earliest possible time" and ensure New Zealand is kept in the loop on international research efforts. 

Health Minister David Clark said the development of a vaccine is a "crucial tool in the control of COVID-19 worldwide" and that a "global effort is well underway" to develop and test vaccine candidates.

Clark said the COVID-19 vaccine strategy announced on Tuesday will ensure that "all stops are pulled out in New Zealand to advance discovery, development, testing and supply" of a vaccine for the coronavirus. 

The Government is putting up $37 million for the strategy, of which $10 million will be used to support domestic research and $5 million to support potential manufacturing capability. 

A $15 million chunk of the fund will go towards international research collaboration, including the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a foundation based in Norway that works to develop vaccines. 

A further $7 million from New Zealand's fund will go to GAVI, an international organisation which distributes vaccines to developing countries. 

The Government will also advocate internationally for the equitable distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine, with a particular focus on ensuring our Pacific Island partners can access it when needed.

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said New Zealand will contribute to global efforts by "ramping up our own capability, working with the international community and supporting our Pacific neighbours". 

Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods said New Zealand has "quality researchers and a high performing research, science and innovation sector" with a history of working with colleagues across the globe. 

The Government has set up a taskforce to oversee the strategy. 

It's made up of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), the Ministry of Health and its regulatory and purchasing agencies Medsafe and Pharmac, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT). 

It comes as the Ministry of Health reported no new cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand on Tuesday, with no new cases reported on Monday or over the weekend.