The top priority for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders is "achieving widespread access for vaccines globally and working collaboratively to provide them to everyone as soon as possible", New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Saturday.

"For the first time in APEC's history, leaders have come together for an extraordinary meeting focused exclusively on Covid-19, and how our region can navigate out of the worst health and economic crisis in living memory," Ardern said while chairing a meeting of leaders representing the APEC economies overnight.

"Now we are focusing on all aspects of contributing to the global vaccination effort -- making vaccines, sharing vaccines and using vaccines."

She said that global vaccine access and uptake provide economies the greatest chance to accelerate recovery, and will support greater economic stability, Xinhua news agency reported.

Collaborative and practical solutions on safely reconnecting with the world, including vaccine passports, travel green lanes and quarantine-free travel bubbles, have been actively explored, Ardern said.

"The scars of the pandemic on our economies will be with us for a long time to come. These would exacerbate some of our existing challenges relating to inclusion and sustainability not least in combating climate change," she said, adding there's no better way to tackle the challenges than by engaging directly with one another.

The APEC Informal Economic Leaders' Retreat kicked off in the form of a virtual meeting late Friday, hosted by this year's APEC chair New Zealand.

The leaders discussed immediate measures to assist recovery, as well as steps that will support inclusive and sustainable growth over the long term.

APEC-wide GDP contracted by 1.9 per cent in 2020, the biggest fall since World War II.

While economic growth is recovering, around 81 million jobs have been lost due to the pandemic, according to an APEC research.

APEC is a regional economic forum established in 1989 to leverage the growing interdependence of the Asia-Pacific.

APEC's 21 members aim to create greater prosperity for the people of the region by promoting balanced, inclusive, sustainable, innovative and secure growth and by accelerating regional economic integration.