Health

New Zealand pledges $37 million to global COVID-19 vaccine search

New Zealand announced a $37 million NZD funding boost on Tuesday for COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine research efforts.

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

New Zealand Minister for Foreign Affairs Winson Peters, Minister for Research, Science and Innovation Megan Woods and Health Minister David Clark said $10 million would support domestic research initiatives and $5 million would be set aside to examine possible vaccine manufacturing in New Zealand.

Up to $15 million has been allocated for global research efforts, including projects overseen by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). A further $7 million will go toward Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which works to distribute vaccines and provide critical health care to low-income countries.

The pledge to CEPI follows more than 3,000 actions taken by Global Citizens calling directly on New Zealand to commit urgent new funds to the vital global health initiative and almost 70,000 actions taken worldwide demanding all world leaders invest in vaccines.

"The development of a safe and effective vaccine is a crucial tool in the control of COVID-19 worldwide, and a global effort is well underway to develop and test various vaccine candidates,” Clark said in a press release.

During Tuesday’s announcement, the ministers revealed New Zealand would also prioritize and champion the fair allocation of a COVID-19 vaccine once available — with particular emphasis on ensuring Pacific populations receive timely access.

"The COVID-19 vaccine strategy outlines how New Zealand will contribute to global efforts by ramping up our own capability, working with the international community and supporting our Pacific neighbors in the deployment of a vaccine once it becomes available,” Peters said.

New Zealand’s contribution will help move CEPI — an organization established to develop timely vaccines against pandemics — closer to its goal of raising $2 billion USD. The coalition says the $2 billion figure will enable an expansion of the number of vaccine candidates that can be tested and will fund ensuing clinical trials.

Gavi, meanwhile, hopes to raise $7.4 billion USD. By doing so, the alliance states they can immunize another 300 million children worldwide from preventable disease and save around 8 million more children from 2021 to 2025.

Since 2000, Gavi has vaccinated 760 million children and saved 13 million lives.

Just under $30 million USD in urgent initial funding has already been distributed by Gavi to help 13 lower-income nations respond to the pandemic.

"We are urgently offering vital funding and resources to help countries respond and protect the heroic health workers who will be the front line against this pandemic,” said Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, in a media statement. “Our support goes further than immediate funding: we have spent 20 years helping to strengthen the health systems, recruit and train the health workers, and improve the infrastructure that will now be more important than ever. This work will continue as we stand side by side with countries to both battle COVID-19 and keep immunization programs running. This infrastructure will also be critical to the roll-out of eventual COVID-19 vaccines.”

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