Jacinda Ardern admits good relationship with Spanish President Pedro Sánchez 'possibly' helped secure extra COVID-19 vaccines

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced that a quarter of a million extra Pfizer doses are en route to New Zealand from Spain. 

The additional COVID-19 vaccines are due to arrive on Friday morning. It will allow the Government to maintain high levels of vaccination this month, before the bulk of doses arrive in October. 

"We expect to receive a total of 1.8 million doses from Pfizer throughout the month of September, in addition to the doses purchased from Spain. This means we don't have any plans to slow down the rollout," Ardern said on Thursday. 

"This is the result of excellent collaboration between officials from New Zealand, Spain, the European Commission and Pfizer to secure this agreement. I wish to say thank you to those involved, especially President Pedro Sánchez of Spain.

"We are deeply grateful to Spain for their cooperation and agreement to sell these doses to New Zealand. This reaffirms the strong links between our countries and is in the spirit of the global values shared by New Zealand and Spain."

Ardern is understood to have a good relationship with the Spanish President. The pair have met face-to-face in New York at the United Nations, and this year Spain and New Zealand signed a Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership

Ardern admitted that her relationship with the Spanish President may have contributed to the speed at which New Zealand was able to secure more vaccines from the European nation. 

"It is fair to say though that there was some leader-to-leader engagement, and I don't think that was necessarily determinative," she told reporters. 

"But just so happens that there were relationships there that meant that I could have those conversations and I did so, and it's sometimes just, possibly, I can't say either way, but sometimes possibly speeds things up."

Ardern thanked the European Commission for coordinating the purchase, and Belgium for their role in producing the vaccines that New Zealand is the recipient of.

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

Ardern confirmed last week the Government was trying to source more vaccines to meet the high demand. In the worst case scenario, the rollout would revert back to the original plan, with around 50,000 doses a day. 

Ardern announced on Monday this week the Government was finalising deals with more than one country on securing more vaccines to meet the current high demand. 

"We expect to make a further announcement about an agreement to buy additional Pfizer vaccines from a second country next week," Ardern said on Thursday. 

"It's been heartening to see so many New Zealanders getting vaccinated recently and the additional doses that we have purchased from Spain will help us provide additional capacity and walk-in sites through September.

"We're vaccinating well ahead of plan and these additional vaccines will ensure we can continue to ramp up our vaccination programme."

Australia is also trying to secure more vaccines amid a surge in cases in Sydney and Melbourne. Nearly half a million doses of Pfizer arrived in Australia earlier this week from the UK, officials confirmed.