New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Thursday that every citizen of the island country will be offered a free coronavirus vaccine, after the government secured enough doses for the entire population.
The threshold was reached after the New Zealand government attained new deals with AstraZeneca and Novavax to provide 7.6 million and 10.7 million vaccine doses respectively, according to a report by the Independent. (RELATED: ‘I Made A Mistake’: New Zealand Prime Minister Apologizes For Taking Selfie Without A Mask)
New Zealand reportedly had already made deals with Pfizer to provide 1.5 million doses and Janssen Pharmaceutica to provide 5 million doses. Each vaccination requires two doses per person, meaning New Zealand is set to have more than enough vaccines for its 5.5 million population, the Independent reports.
New Zealand buys enough Covid vaccine for the whole country https://t.co/JheamVTNW4
— The Independent (@Independent) December 17, 2020
None of the vaccines have gained regulatory approval in New Zealand yet and some are still in the process of clinical trials, but it is hoped that distribution can begin in the second quarter of 2021, according to the Independent. Ardern says that frontline healthcare workers will be among the first people to receive the vaccines, like in the U.S.
“This will be a sustained roll out 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,” said Ardern.
New Zealand has fared better than many other countries during the COVID-19 pandemic and was able to resume normal life, for the most part. The country underwent strict lockdowns and border controls. There have been 1,744 cases and 25 deaths in New Zealand to date, according to the Independent, far less than most countries around the world. (RELATED: Four New COVID-19 Cases Hurl New Zealand Into Renewed Country-Wide Lockdown)
At a news conference Thursday, Ardern said the push for COVID-19 vaccine distribution “will be New Zealand’s largest immunization roll-out ever.”