13 May 2021

Fiji extends its vaccine rollout north

6:33 pm on 13 May 2021

Fiji's Covid-19 vaccination rollout on Vanua Levu is pressing on, as the main island Viti Levu prepares for a lockdown.

This photo from April shows shoppers in Suva's fish market preparing for a lockdown in late April.

Shoppers in Suva's fish market preparing for a lockdown in late April. Viti Levu will lockdown again on Friday night, due to a rise in Covid-19 cases. Photo: AFP

The imminent lockdown, due to a surge in Covid-19 cases has complicated Fiji's ongoing efforts to vaccinate its population against the virus.

By the start of this month Fiji had already used 50,000 AstraZeneca doses for its national vaccination programme.

The head of Fiji's Vaccination Taskforce, Dr Rachel Devi said Australia had sent another batch of 31,600 doses. And, while Viti Levu is in the midst of containment restrictions, Devi said the vaccine rollout was heading north.

"This week we've given about 4,000 doses to the northern division.

"So with that in mind, we anticipate to finish these vaccines in due time. Not necessarily... this week, but it could roll into next week as well."

Dr Rachel Devi of Fiji's Vaccination Taskforce.

Dr Rachel Devi Photo: Supplied

She said, although the rollout wasn't being pushed too fast, Fiji's health authorities were determined to get vulnerable communities vaccinated.

"In this batches of vaccines, our ultimate target is obviously the highly populated areas that are seeing a good number of community cases now.

"We really want to ensure that our individuals who have comorbid issues are protected at this instance, because they are the most vulnerable at this stage."

Dr Devi said it was important that health authorities had been flexible in learning to adapt in the changeable Covid-19 environment.

She said the plan was to provide the vaccination at a range of sites, to disperse the people getting it.

"We just want to make sure on the ground - it's essential, that we maintain our Covid behaviours [already] in place, and not rush into things, because we literally want to avoid the overcrowding."

The New Zealand government today announced a boost to the number of vaccines promised for Pacific Island countries, as well as $120 million in economic support.

New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta said Fiji had accepted an offer of enough AstraZeneca doses for 250,000 people, though this was subject to MedSafe approval.

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