COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins fires up at David Seymour's offering cash for more vaccines idea

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says Pfizer has a "higher moral standard" than ACT, after David Seymour suggested offering cash for more vaccine doses. 

During Question Time in Parliament, Seymour asked about the Government's efforts to get more coronavirus vaccines into New Zealand to keep up with the current high demand. 

"Has he or officials or anybody in the Ministry of Health or MBIE [Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment] offered to pay additional money to Pfizer as Canada has done, to get additional doses faster?" 

Hipkins said the situation in Canada was different, as it undertook an emergency vaccine approval process, which New Zealand did not. He also took a crack at Seymour for suggesting cash to jump the vaccine queue. 

"In terms of the issue around Canada, what the member refers to is some discussions the Canadians undertook with Pfizer late last year when the Pfizer vaccine was still in its very early stages of production, to increase production in order to facilitate access to a very limited number - and we're talking hundreds of thousands of doses not millions of doses - in the early part of their emergency vaccine approval process, which is not something the New Zealand Government has done," Hipkins said. 

"I have had conversations directly with representatives of Pfizer to discuss this issue. Pfizer has been very clear: The production they have of the vaccine is fully committed around the globe and they are not willing to offer rich countries the opportunity to pay more in order to displace countries who cannot afford to do that, which suggests that big pharma has a higher ethical and moral standard than the ACT Party does."

Seymour hit back after the debate. 

"The true nature of the Government's response was there for all to see live and in person. With under pressure ministers making snarky remarks in contrast with their usual stage-managed presentations.

"This the kind of perspective New Zealanders need to see if the Government is going to be pressured into lifting its game and be more prepared for the next phase of COVID than it was for this outbreak."

With more than 90,000 doses administered some days, Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall told The AM Show on Monday that level could only be sustained for a few more weeks. 

The Government is currently trying to source more vaccines to meet the high demand, and an announcement is expected this week. In the worst case scenario, the roll-out would revert back to the original plan, with around 50,000 doses a day. 

More than 3.4 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to date in New Zealand, of which 2.2 million are first doses and more than 1.18 million are second doses.