Further pandemic support to the Pacific


The New Zealand Government has announced further pandemic support for Pacific Island countries with vaccine boosters, COVID-19 anti-viral treatments, and by strengthening the capacity of the health workforce to respond to further pandemics.

“The impact of COVID-19 is still being felt around the world, including the Pacific. As we continue our re-connections this year we have a clear focus on supporting the social and economic resilience of our Pacific partners and their health priorities,” NZ foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said.

“Aotearoa New Zealand stands alongside the Pacific to further support preparedness and response efforts. It reflects the importance we place on being there for our Pacific fanau throughout this pandemic,” Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio said.

Mahuta made the announcement in the Cook Islands, during a visit to Rarotonga Hospital where she met frontline health workers involved in the COVID-19 response.

The package of support includes:

*Additional funding of $3.8 million (US$2.1 million) for the Polynesian Health Corridors programme for pandemic preparedness and response over the next year, to continue COVID-19 immunisation support, provide public health advice and help strengthen the health workforce.

*A $1.1 million (US$623,000) contribution to the World Health Organisation to increase access to COVID-19 therapeutics in the wider Pacific, with accompanying technical support;

*Access to COVID-19 oral antivirals from Aotearoa New Zealand’s domestic supply for the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau. There will be accompanying guidance and support, facilitated by the Polynesian Health Corridors team, through clinical specialists and organisations in Aotearoa New Zealand;

*Provision of second COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine boosters to the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau as requested.

“The Polynesian Health Corridors programme sees workers from Aotearoa New Zealand step up with public health advice, vaccine rollout support, and health workforce capability building in the Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu,” Sio said.

“The PHC programme facilitated New Zealand’s donation of almost 44,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to the Cook Islands. There was also support from clinicians who travelled to the islands to backfill the roles of local health workers during the vaccination rollout.

“Our support will ensure Pacific countries have more tools to respond to COVID-19 to keep their populations safe.

“Oral antiviral treatments and second boosters are an important addition to pandemic response efforts globally. They reduce the risk of severe illness and hospitalisation following COVID-19 infection, especially for people with pre-existing health conditions,” Sio said.

“Providing treatments and vaccines through our domestic supply, and increasing access to antiviral treatments in collaboration with the World Health Organisation, will enhance countries’ ability to respond to the pandemic and save lives,” Mahuta said.

“Health systems across the world have felt the burden of COVID-19. It is our responsibility as a Pacific nation to work together with our Pacific partners to strengthen our collective capabilities to prepare for and respond to pandemics. In the long run, this helps us all in our efforts to achieve a safer, prosperous and resilient Pacific,” Nanaia Mahuta said.