Papua New Guinea has received an additional 146,000 doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine from New Zealand, facilitated through the COVAX facility.
PNG has recorded almost 17,000 confirmed cases of the virus, the vast majority in the past few months, although testing remains limited and the real number of those infected is expected to be far higher. The official death toll is 167.
The country's Health Secretary, Osborne Liko, said the doses gifted by New Zealand will boost PNG's vaccination programme and ensure that more people, including essential frontline workers, will be protected.
"These doses will ensure more lives are saved and that frontline workers can continue to provide essential services to the people of Papua New Guinea,'' Dr Liko said.
However, PNG authorities have struggled with a slow uptake of vaccination so far, with hesitancy a major obstacle.
Since March, only 41-thousand people have taken the first dose of Astrazeneca, mainly essential workers and around 7,000 health workers.
However up to a hundred thousand doses of Astrazeneca sent earlier this year by Australia and India are set to go to waste next month when they expire, unless the uptake increases.
PNG's Deputy Pandemic Response Controller, Dr Daoni Esorom, said the 146,000 doses sent by New Zealand this week will help the Department of Health and the National Control Centre to roll out the 2nd dose of Astrazeneca among front line health workers and other essential front line workers.
According to Dr Daoni, fact that PNG is receiving 20 per cent of the quantity of doses sent to it from the COVAX facility, while partners like the Australian and New Zeeland governments will be supporting additional doses to the PNG government - all of which are purportedly to enable the government to vaccinate 50 percent of its eligible population.
The doses were received at Jackson's Airport on Tuesday by the New Zealand High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea, Phillip Taula.
"As whanaunga, friends, and partners, Aotearoa New Zealand stands alongside the Pacific at this difficult time," he said.
"PNG's success in tackling COVID-19 has been hard-won at an enormous cost to your economy and livelihoods. New Zealand is proud to be partnering with PNG to help us all get through this."