Six Pacific Nations First To Benefit From New Zealand’s COVID-19 Vaccine Donation
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in April announced that her government would donate 1.6 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to COVAX.

Six low-and middle-income countries in the Pacific region are set to receive the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines donated by the government of New Zealand in response to global supply constraints.

Fiji, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga and Tuvalu will in the coming months benefit from the dose-sharing agreement, signed on Tuesday between New Zealand and the COVAX-facility, when the first allocation of 211,200 of the 1.6 million  AstraZeneca doses are delivered.

Announcing the dose-sharing agreement, Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, said the donation would allow the alliance to “deliver more doses in an extremely tight global supply context”. “The Pacific nations that will be receiving these doses will be able to fully vaccinate populations that have received a first dose, and also increase the total number of people protected,” said Berkley. 

Additional allocations will be announced as and when COVAX publishes new allocation rounds.

New Zealand is currently only using the Pfizer vaccine to vaccinate its population of 4.85 million . As of 25 May 562,149 New Zealanders had been vaccinated – 371,043 had been the first dose administered while 191, 106 had two doses.

The New Zealand donation follows COVAX’s Principles for Dose-Sharing, which provides a framework for economies to share vaccine doses with others that have been secured either via their self-financed COVAX allocations or through bilateral deals. “This will help to increase vaccine coverage, ensure that no dose goes to waste, and help to bring an end to the acute phase of the pandemic.”

Country Amount
Papua New Guinea 146,400
Solomon Islands 28,800
Timor-Leste 24,000
Tonga 4,800
Tuvalu 4,800
Fiji 2,400
Total 211,200

While welcoming New Zealand’s donation, Gavi called for an end to vaccine export bans in reference to the Indian government’s decision to suspend exports of vaccines from the Serum Institute of India (SII) to deal with domestic demand amid a growing number of infections in the the country.

“Gavi and COVAX partners are additionally calling for an end to export bans, support for technology transfers and for public and private donors to fully finance the Gavi COVAX AMC with an additional US$2 billion by June 2nd for a total ask of US$8.3 billion to secure 1.8 billion doses.”

Vaccine Donation Will Help Save Lives

New Zealand’s Associate Foreign Affairs Minister Aupito William Sio said the country was pleased that its donation will save lives. 

“We need to do all we can to increase the global supply of vaccines. This means mobilising funding, donating doses, keeping supply chains open, and removing barriers to manufacturing. We encourage all those in a position to do so to consider sharing their vaccines.”

Papua New Guinea Secretary for Health, Dr Osborne Liko, said the gifted doses would be used to provide the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine to frontline health workers.

Several other countries – Europe (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain and Sweden), the United Arab Emirates and the United States of America –  have already announced pledges to share vaccine doses with lower-income economies through COVAX or in coordination with COVAX. 

Image Credits: Commons Wikimedia.

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