New Zealand accepts vaccines should go to coronavirus hot spots first

The entire population of New Zealand will be offered vaccination from the second half of 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

WELLINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - New Zealand wants access to Covid-19 vaccines as soon as possible but accepts that other nations where the death toll is rising have a higher priority, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said.

"We're doing every single thing that is possible to get the vaccines here as soon as we can, but I don't think it will be a surprise to anybody that countries where there are literally thousands of people dying every day, that those are countries where the vaccines are going out right now," Robertson told NewstalkZB Wednesday (Jan 13).

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced mid-December that the entire population of five million would be offered vaccination from the second half of 2021 after the government signed contracts with four drug companies. Political opponents have raised questions about the risk of waiting another six months amid a global resurgence of the virus and the emergence of variants that are more transmissible.

Robertson denied that New Zealand, which has eliminated the virus from its community and recorded just 25 deaths, was being polite and waiting on the sidelines.

"I wouldn't describe it as polite, I'd just describe it as real," he said. "We've got a situation in the UK and the US where they are really struggling at the moment with tragic levels of deaths. That's where the vaccine is rolling out first."

New Zealand has got its orders in, but there are likely to be some delays given the global scale of the rollout, Robertson said.

"I can assure New Zealanders we've got those contracts signed, we will be getting the vaccines here," he said. "We're doing everything we can to get it out the door as soon as possible."

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