Govt kept Pfizer waiting six weeks before first meeting

Pfizer first approached the Government for a meeting to discuss their Covid-19 vaccine in June last year but it took six weeks before the Government got around to meeting with them, National’s Covid-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

The information was released to National through answers to written questions.

“On June 30 Pfizer wrote to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) saying ‘we have the potential to supply millions of vaccine doses by the end of 2020, subject to technical success and regulatory approvals, then rapidly scale up to produce hundreds of millions of doses in 2021’.

“Despite Pfizer’s clear eagerness to meet with the Government, MBIE didn’t meet with Pfizer until August 14, six weeks after Pfizer’s first letter and four days after Cabinet finally got around to allocating funds to establish a negotiating team for New Zealand to sign contracts with vaccine manufacturers.

“This shows the disgracefully negligent way the Government procured vaccines in 2020. While other countries were signing bilateral advance purchase agreements with manufacturers, our Government was sitting on its hands.

“By the time the Government got its act together to get into a position to negotiate agreements other countries had already concluded theirs.

“New Zealand didn’t sign a heads of agreement with Pfizer until October, much later than other countries, and the final agreement was not concluded until just before Christmas.

“The first countries to sign a vaccine agreement were also the first countries to get the vaccines. New Zealand was one of the last thanks to our Government, and we were one of the last countries to receive our vaccines.

“Kiwis are now paying the price for the Government’s incompetence last year. We have had the slowest vaccine rollout in the developed world for most of this year. But the time Delta hit just 20 per cent of New Zealand was vaccinated.

“The Government’s negligence has resulted in Auckland remaining in the longest lockdown the country has had.

“The Prime Minister now urges Kiwis to get vaccinated and says this is the way for restrictions to be loosened. She’s right, but this same urgency should’ve been deployed last year when Pfizer was trying to talk to her Government about their vaccine.

“It’s clear for all to see that Labour got complacent and it’s meant Kiwis are now bearing the brunt of this.”

You can read an answer to a Written Parliamentary Question here.