20 Jun 2021

Fiji authorities continue AstraZeneca rollout

4:04 pm on 20 June 2021

Fiji's Covid-19 death toll remains at six as authorities determine that the latest death to a covid positive patient was caused by underlying conditions while Saturday's case count of 150 breaks previous days records.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Medical Services Dr James Fong said at least 117 cases are from known clusters including 87 new cases from frontliner clusters.

Dr Fong said two cases were detected at the Fiji Emergency Medical Assistance Team (FEMAT) field hospital operating out of the Vodafone Arena at Laucala Bay in the city which are being investigated to trace links to other clusters.

In addition the health head announced a new cluster at the Nasese Medical Centre, a private hospital in the capital city Suva, with one new case reported on Saturday to add to the 6 cases existing in the cluster.

Permanent Secretary of Health, James Fong

Permanent Secretary of Health, James Fong Photo: Fiji Govt

Frontliner infections

New cases in clusters where frontliners either form the majority or were among the first to be infected includes 32 cases from the country's main health facility, the Colonial War Memorial Hospital in Suva and 18 from the Townhouse Motel in the city centre where staff are accommodated while on shift.

There are 26 new cases at the government's Fiji Pharmaceutical & Biomedical Services Centre to add to the first one announced on Friday.

Also notable are nine cases from the Mineral Resources Department, the government's main mining regulator and supplier of geoscientific (including seismology) advice.

The discipline forces recorded one case each from the Nasinu Police Barracks and at the Republic of Fiji Military Forces while four cases were detected at the Central Police Station (CPS) in the city. Investigations into the CPS cases continue to trace links to known cases.

Other increases to known clusters include 1 at the Max Value Supermarket in Lami town, in the Suva city area, there is 1 case the Public Rental Board in Raiwai and 3 at Freshet, a large meat processing company in the city; in the vicinity of Nasinu Town, there are 7 at Navosai, 4 at Muanikoso and 1 in Caubati, in the suburbs surrounding Nausori Town there are 9 cases at Waila, 1 at Vunivivi and 1 at Vunimono whilst in the province of Tailevu which had been COVID free until this week, there are two more cases at Korovou Town.

Investigations continue into community transmission cases to determine links to other cases: Salato Rd, Tamavua (1) Duvula Rd, Nadera (4), Bryce Street, Raiwaqa (1), Sanpuran, St Nausori (1), Navuso, Nausori (1), Anorogo Pl, Davuilevu (1), Muana Village, Toga, Nausori (5), Naitalasese, Bua Rd (1), Matanimoli Rd (1), Totogo Police (4), Wainibokasi (2), Qauia, Lami (1).

More than 40,000 people had their first dose of the two-dose AstraZeneca vaccine over a seven day period.

More than 40,000 people had their first dose of the two-dose AstraZeneca vaccine over a seven day period. Photo: Supplied

Vaccine controversy

Meanwhile Fiji's vaccine of choice remains AstraZeneca despite that the Australian Government from whom it receives the majority of its supply, has recommended the discontinued use of the vaccine for its under 60 year olds.

Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt announced earlier last week the AstraZeneca vaccine would be recommended for use in people over 60 and those under 60 would now be offered the Pfizer shot.

The Australian federal government accepted advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) after two women died from an extremely rare blood clotting disorder and 60 Australians out of the 3.8 million who got the shot developed blood clots.

Meanwhile the Australian government has provided Fiji with 250,000 Australian-manufactured AstraZeneca vaccines as part of its commitment of 1 million vaccines to its Pacific neighbour.

In response to concerns about Australia's change of vaccine policy, the World Health Organisation Representative Office in the South Pacific and the MOH Fiji put out a joint statement to say that after vaccinating 256,018 people (44 per cent of the adult population) with one dose of AstraZeneca and administering two doses to 17,990 people, there were no confirmed cases of serious adverse effects.

The WHO/MOH said Covid-19 vaccination remains one of Fiji's most effective response measures.

"Australia's decision does not change the approach for us here in Fiji. Given the current community transmission and Covid-19 variant, all unvaccinated individuals are at risk from the virus."

"It is also important to remember that serious adverse events following immunization with the AstraZeneca vaccine remain rare events."

Further, the WHO continues to recommend Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines "for individuals aged 18 years and over. These vaccines have undergone the strictest safety and quality control trials and have reached the exacting standards of safety, purity, and effectiveness. Nothing is left to chance" the statement said.

Fijian health authorities report that 21 patients have recovered so there are now 1311 active cases and so there have been 1728 cases during this outbreak that started in April 2021.

In total there have been 1798 cases in Fiji since March 2020.

The total of certified COVID deaths remain at 6 while 8 covid positive patients at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital have died of pre-existing conditions.