COVID-19: Bill Gates' wife Melinda made plea to Ardern over coronavirus vaccine - documents

The wife of Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates made an impassioned plea to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to consider speaking up about a unified approach to a coronavirus vaccine, documents released to NZME show.

Melinda, a philanthropist who in the past has sung Ardern's praises, asked for a meeting with the Prime Minister and the pair talked over a video teleconference in June.

She told Ardern her leadership and how New Zealand responded to COVID-19 was seen as an exemplar to the US and other countries, NZME reports citing the meeting's official records.

Melinda told Ardern that it was a challenging matter.

"We need you to speak up in support of a collective approach to vaccines," Melinda told Ardern, according to the records released under the Official Information Act.

There is still no official vaccine for COVID-19 but the Government last month announced a deal had been reached with BioNTech and Pfizer for 1.5 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine - subject to it passing clinical trials. 

Research, Science, and Innovation Minister Megan Woods announced in May, just a month before Ardern and Melinda met, that $37 million would be allocated to a COVID-19 vaccine strategy to enable New Zealand scientists to contribute to global research efforts and explore the potential of vaccine manufacturing capability in New Zealand. 

"It's vital that we contribute to international research efforts as well as ramp up our own research and manufacturing capability," Dr Woods said at the time.

Bill Gates, meanwhile, said in April he was ready to "waste" billions of dollars on ineffective coronavirus vaccines to ensure the world gets one that works. 

Ardern met Bill and Melinda Gates during a trip to New York last year.