Vanuatu COVID-19 vaccine rollout underway

Vanuatu has finally started rolling out COVID-19 vaccines, after 24,000 doses of the Astra-Zeneca vaccine arrived through the COVAX facility.

Health care workers, border and quarantine staff, public transport drivers and people aged 55 and above, plus those over 35 with existing medical conditions, will get the first doses.

“While the vaccine is not mandatory and people will be able to choose whether they would take the vaccine, many people in our communities are much more at risk than others due to the nature of the job as well as those at risk of serious complications due to COVID-19,” said Prime Minister Bob Loughman.

“Along with the rollout of the safe and effective vaccines, we must also work towards a diverse vaccine portfolio. At the same time, we must be prepared to provide booster shots and adapted vaccines,” said Minister of Health, Silas Bule.

Vanuatu has had three recorded cases of COVID-19 according to the WHO.

In an earlier interview with Islands Business contributor, Len Garae, Vanuatu’s Director General of Health talked about the importance of the partnership government has with the Vanuatu Christian Council of Churches in drumming home public awareness messages.

“We have involved the Malvatumauri National Council of Chiefs since culturally Custom Chiefs have overall control of the people. We know that these two social institutions; the church and chiefly systems control the people; we have not left them out and the fact that as young as two-year-olds know how to wash their hands, is testimony to the depth of this awareness programme throughout the communities,” said Russell Tamata.

“I think we are one of the few countries in the world where a Head of State offered a national prayer during the start of the Pandemic which reflects our strong faith in God and customs and culture, all of which are embedded in our Constitution.

“Man, it was powerful as it was not expected. It was spot on. The whole country was moved by it”.

Tamata says while Vanuatu is taking advice from the World Health Organisation, it has its own way of doing things.

He cites as one example, how equipment from China to assist in fighting the pandemic was handled. “We unpacked all the items and fumigated every one of them with advice from a fumigation company. It sounds a bit crazy that that is how we do things in Vanuatu. At the beginning, we did not take any chances while we prepared to set up our system to combat the virus.”

Director General of Health, Russel Tamata