With the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine from the Covax facility expiring next month, Papua New Guinea health officials are concerned that some may waste due to the slow uptake among health workers and the public.
Deputy Pandemic Response Controller Dr Daoni Esorom told The National newspaperthat the 132,000 doses of vaccine that arrived in April were distributed in two batches.
“The vaccines that were sent to Western, Western Highlands and East Sepik will expire on 18 July, the ones sent to the rest of the country will expire on 29 July. “Currently, there are 100,000 doses of the vaccine in the provinces.”
Dr Esorom said as of Sunday 38,563 people were vaccinated of which 6,063 were health workers and 32,012 were essential workers, 488 were people that were 45 and above with comorbidity and 13 experienced adverse effects from immunisation.
He said only 32.9 per cent of health and essential workers were vaccinated and the vaccination in the region was as follows: Southern 19,907, Momase 7,315, Islands 4,781 and Highlands 6,560.
“It is a concern that the vaccination uptake by our people is slow,” Dr Esorom said. “Essentially, we have a month to go and we need to drive the demand for the vaccine.
“It is not helping the situation when people are sharing misinformation on social media and in the communities.
“We need to share more stories about the vaccines and help the people understand the importance of getting the vaccine. The vaccines are available and free for all health workers, other essential workers and everyone and all that is required is for people to go and get it.
“We got some strategies to get all the vaccines used.
Dr Esorom said the National Capital District (NCD) health authority had administered all the doses that they have been allocated for this phase and there were around 3,000 doses at the area medical store in Port Moresby which could be given to them. Around 16,452 people in NCD were vaccinated of which 1,101 were health workers and 15,350 were essential workers.
He said the international SOS would continue to administer the vaccines supplied by Australia.
Dr Esorom said the next batch of AstraZeneca vaccines (288,000 doses) from the Covax facility would arrive early next month. He said following the mass gatherings recently in NCD, if people were not adhering to the measures, a surge was expected in two weeks’ time.
“Vaccination is the ideal tool to deal with any future surge in Covid-19 cases and people should take it when they can,” he said.