Twelve Pacific Island countries are expected to receive vaccines for the coronavirus in the first half of this year through the COVAX initiative, with the region’s largest nation Papua New Guinea expected to receive by far the largest allocation.
PNG—which is still experiencing large-scale community transmission of COVID-19— is forecast to receive 684,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured at the Serum Institute of India in the first quarter of the year. Solomon Islands will receive 108,000 doses from the same source.
The other Pacific Islands nations listed by COVAX last week will also receive the AstraZeneca vaccine, but from a different manufacturing source.
- Fiji 100,800 doses;
- Kiribati – 48,000;
- Marshall Islands – 24,000;
- Micronesia (Federated States of) – 48,000;
- Nauru – 7,200;
- New Zealand 249,600;
- Samoa – 79,200;
- Tonga – 43,200
- Tuvalu – 4,800
- Vanuatu 100,800.
While these forecasts are subject to change, COVAX partners say the release of this information should help governments and public health leaders put into place practical steps to roll out the vaccines in-country.
The Facility aims to see total doses cover at least 3% of the total population of all 145 participant countries in the first half of this year, enough to protect the most vulnerable groups such health care workers.
While 1.2 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be available to the COVAX facility in the first three months of this year, no Pacific Islands are listed to receive it as this is the ultra-cold chain vaccine, requiring temperatures of minus-70 degrees.
More vaccine doses are expected to be available later this year.
After last week's Pacific Islands Forum Special Leaders' retreat, Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor said Australia and New Zealand have committed to ensuring vaccines will be shared across the region.
"They gave assurances to the leaders that supplies would come. However in terms of an exact date I would be misleading you if I said we had any clear indication of that."
In a speech in Fiji’s parliament today, Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum said vaccine dispersal is so far “shaping up to be a rich countries’ race. Countries with just 16% of the world’s population have bought out 60% of the world’s vaccine supply.”
“Fiji must secure its place in the world’s economic comeback by securing vaccines as quickly as we can, not months after the rest of the world but alongside it otherwise our people will be more vulnerable than they have ever been, exposed to infection, economically disadvantaged and left behind as the rest of the world races ahead.”
“Patiently waiting our time in the COVAX queue will be economic suicide for the country,” he said, noting that Fiji is working with bilateral partners to secure financial resources to buy vaccines now and will also be looking at making direct purchases from vaccine manufacturers.
“So far Australia and India have stepped up with direct funding and shifted support,” Khaiyum said.
This story was updated at 5:11pm Fiji time to reflect events in Fiji's parliament today.