WELLINGTON - The New Zealand government has committed to investing 27 million NZ dollars (18.3 million U.S. dollars) in COVID-19 vaccine development through the global COVAX Facility, Deputy Prime minister and Foreign Minister Winston Peters said on Monday. “The COVAX Facility is a key part of our COVID-19 Vaccine Strategy to obtain safe and effective vaccines. It allows us to invest in a high-quality, diversified portfolio of COVID-19 vaccine candidates. This will ensure we are spreading risk and keeping our options open,” Peters said in a statement. New Zealand expressed interest in joining the COVAX Facility in July, which allowed the country to support international efforts to shape how the facility works, he said. New Zealand has officially confirmed its commitment to the COVAX Facility and will invest an initial amount of 27 million NZ dollars to support development and manufacturing. It will act as a pre-purchase should any of the vaccine candidates be successful, Peters said. Additional funding will be required to purchase COVID-19 vaccines if any of the candidates in the COVAX Facility portfolio are successful, but the exact amount of additional funding is not yet known, he said. This initial investment is part of the allocation the government announced in August from the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund, he added.  “The agreement will ensure that New Zealand receives enough vaccines to cover up to 50 percent of the population of New Zealand and the Realm, which includes Tokelau, Cook Islands and Niue,” said Peters.

   “It’s important that all countries are able to access sufficient amounts of vaccines to protect their populations and contribute to getting the pandemic under control on a global level,” he said.