New Zealand offers free COVID-19 vaccines to neighboring nations

New Zealand offers free COVID-19 vaccines to neighboring nations

16:59 - New Zealand announced Thursday that it would provide free COVID-19 vaccines to its population of 5 million, plus additional free vaccines to neighboring nations.

The announcement came as government officials also said the country had purchased vaccines from two major developers, AstraZeneca and Novavax, NPR reported.

New Zealand said it would support sending free vaccines to Tokelau, Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu if they request them.

In a statement during a news conference, Prime Minister Jacinda Arden underscored the initiative as the largest immunization disbursement ever.

"Never before has the entire globe sought to vaccinate the entire population at the same time," Arden said. "This will be a sustained rollout over months, not weeks, but our pre-purchase agreements means New Zealand is well positioned to get on with it as soon as it is proven safe to do so."

New Zealand also has purchase agreements for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Janssen Pharmaceutica vaccines.

The new agreements announced Thursday provides the island country with access to 7.6 million doses from AstraZeneca, which will vaccinate 3.8 million people, and 10.72 million doses from Novavax, which is enough for 5.36 million people, New Zealand's government said. Both vaccines require two doses to be effective.

"Our approach allows for the possibility for some vaccines to be more suited to certain population groups or for deployment in different areas," Arden explained.

According to The Guardian, New Zealand's economy rebounded in the third quarter of the fiscal year, growing 14 percent. Stats NZ said Thursday the growth in September was the strongest quarter in the country's history.

The 14 percent increase followed an 11 percent drop in June.

Finance minister Grant Robertson lauded the government's decision to effectively combat the pandemic, saying, "the response to the global COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to a better-than-expected economic recovery.”

“While New Zealand’s economy contracted in 2020, it is forecast to rebound strongly in 2021, outperforming regions we compare ourselves to like the Euro zone, the United Kingdom and Japan,” the finance minister added.

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