Rural communities must be prioritised in COVID-19 vaccine rollout - ACT

The ACT Party has called for rural communities to be a priority in the Government's COVID-19 vaccine rollout, along with people in aged care facilities.

The Government on Thursday announced it had secured two new vaccines against the virus, and had pre-ordered 15 million doses - enough for every New Zealander to be immunised, as well as people in the Pacific.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said 7.6 million doses of the vaccine developed by British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca had been acquired, along with 10.72 million doses from American company Novavax.

Immunisation requires two doses, meaning there are enough vaccinations for 3.8 million people and 5.36 million, respectively.

The latest deal follows an agreement in October for New Zealand to buy 1.5 million vaccines - enough for 750,000 people - from Pfizer and BioNTech.

All agreements are based on the condition the vaccines are proven to be safe and effective by New Zealand's pharmaceuticals regulator Medsafe.

Following the Government's announcement on Thursday, Mark Cameron, ACT's spokesperson for primary industries, said it was crucial rural communities are not forgotten when the vaccines become available.

"Promptly getting the vaccine to these smaller and often isolated communities or vice versa must be another Government priority," he said.

"Our primary industries have worked through the lockdowns and propped up the health of the economy during one of New Zealand’s most difficult economic periods.

"Efficient distribution is a must, whether that be getting the vaccine to communities or communities to the vaccine."

The Ministry of Health has yet to finalise its approach to rolling out the vaccines, but three broad groups have been identified as being the highest priority: those at risk of spreading COVID-19; those at risk of contracting COVID-19; and those at risk of increased morbidity and mortality associated with COVID--19.

The Government has set aside $66.3 million for medical supplies and infrastructure to ensure a rollout programme can be launched as soon as the vaccines are ready and available.