“It’s been almost 20 days since Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins revealed the Government had made a plea to Covax to release some early doses of the Pfizer vaccine so frontline workers could be treated sooner than originally scheduled,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“On 16 January Chris Hipkins volunteered that efforts were being made to vaccinate New Zealand’s 10,000 or so border workers ahead of schedule, and on 26 February he told NewstalkZB that wasn’t being done via direct negotiations with Pfizer but instead with Covax.

“He said the request had gone to Covax ‘to see if we can seek additional quantities of the Pfizer vaccine earlier, and we’ll know more about that in the next week or so.’

“Well, it’s been bit more than a week or so Minister, and our frontline border and managed isolation workers are still exposed to planeloads of people from countries where Covid is raging.

“This was clearly considered an important issue by the Government a few weeks back.

“But this week, amidst all the self-congratulation for having approved the Pfizer vaccine, and today when the Minister provided extensive commentary on Covax, there was no update on his request for early doses.

ACT noted last week that it was particularly cheeky of the Government to ask Covax for early vaccines, given its primary role as a facility to procure vaccines for low to middle income countries.

“But the New Zealand Government did ask, so it would be good to get an update on what Covax told them.

“It would be surprising if they weren’t politely told Covax had far higher priorities than helping New Zealand out of the sticky political mess of having negotiated such slow vaccine delivery.

“After all, few of the 67 countries that have now administered 108 million doses of vaccine are in the low to middle income bracket Covax was established to help.”