Coronavirus: COVID-19 vaccine swap deal expected to be announced this week

The Government is about to sign a deal involving multiple countries that will allow the vaccine rollout to continue at its current rapid rate.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told Newstalk ZB he wasn't in a position to announce the deal just yet, with "multiple actors" still needing to sign it off, but said it would likely be ready to reveal in the next day or two. 

"I'm aware that other countries announce these things before they've got a signed deal… we know what's going to happen, but until we've got absolute confirmation we are not announcing it."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told The AM Show at around the same time on Tuesday morning she would have a "little bit more to say" later this week, promising news by Friday. 

Since the outbreak of the Delta variant of COVID-19 in August, the number of Kiwis getting vaccinated has skyrocketed - leading to fears we might run out before later shipments from supplier Pfizer arrive. 

Demand around the world for the vaccine is high, but some countries have found ways to get their hands on supplies before their own shipments arrive by arranging swaps - for example, Australia is getting doses from the UK and Singapore now to beef up its defences as the virus spreads, and will pay them back with doses it receives later. 

"We've continued our vaccine programme with the surge availability amongst it," said Ardern. "But at this stage I don't yet have anything further to share on future vaccine supply. But I hope to do so this week. [By Friday] would be my hope."

Hipkins said he was "very, very optimistic… that we're going to be able to continue our vaccine campaign at its current rate". 

After a late start, New Zealand has one of the fastest-moving vaccination campaigns in the world right now. 

The Government has defended the pace of the rollout, saying by starting later we were able to learn from early adopters  such as Israel and the US about efficacy and safety.