31 Aug 2021

Covid-19 Fiji: Vaccinating children crucial - top health official

9:26 am on 31 August 2021

Vaccination of children between 12 and 17 years is key to protecting Fiji's young people from Covid-19, the country's chief medical adviser says.

A health worker prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine for a resident at a drive-through vaccination centre in Suva.

A health worker prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine for a resident at a drive-through vaccination centre in Suva. Photo: AFP / Leon Lord

It comes amid concerns raised by the Health Ministry and the public at the rate of children dying from the virus in Fiji.

So far about 10 young people have succumbed to the Delta variant, with the latest victims a six-month-old boy and an 11-year-old girl among the dead reported last weekend.

Fiji's chief medical advisor Dr Jemesa Tudravu said vaccinating children would also be a crucial factor in deciding when schools reopen

Schools have been closed since April this year.

Tudravu said the most important aspect of schools reopening would be to "ensure the schools are safe and clean from contamination from the virus".

Another area would be "how do we minimise the opportunities for the virus to move into a school and spread in the school".

Vaccination would have a significant role in all of this, he said.

The ministry was now discussing vaccinating children from the ages of 12 to 17, Tudravu said.

"We are also looking at the current developments in regard to the safety of the vaccines in the younger, less than 12-year-olds.

"Our ideal would be to protect everybody, vaccinate everybody as everybody can hold the virus and everybody can carry the virus."

Those associated with the school such as teachers, transport and canteen operators should be vaccinated, he said.

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184 new cases, 10 deaths reported

There were 184 new cases of Covid-19 reported last night.

The government also confirmed 10 more deaths, taking the toll to 489.

The deaths were recorded from August 26-30, Secretary for Health Dr James Fong said.

Of the latest cases, 133 cases were reported from the Western Division, 40 cases from the Central Division and 11 cases from Kadavu in the East.

Fong said Kadavu now had a total of 175 active cases on the island and all of the patients were isolated.

"There have been 10 more deaths of Covid-19 positive patients. However, these deaths have been classified as non-Covid related by their doctors."

No new recoveries were reported since the last update, he said.

There are now 19,463 active cases - 9058 of them are from the Central Division; 10,225 in the West, five in the North (Nabouwalu and Macuata) and 175 on Kadavu in the Eastern Division.

There have been 46,141 cases recorded during the outbreak that started in April 2021; and a total of 46,211 cases recorded in Fiji since the first case was reported in March 2020, with 25,951 recoveries.

Residents look on as police check people are wearing face masks in Suva,  as a worsening outbreak of the Covid-19 coronavirus Delta variant has overwhelmed the South Pacific nation's largest hospital.

Residents look on as police check people are wearing face masks in Suva, as a worsening outbreak of the Covid-19 coronavirus Delta variant has overwhelmed the South Pacific nation's largest hospital. Photo: AFP or licensors

Primary contacts established

Meanwhile, 60 primary contacts have been established with links to the three positive cases at the Namara Tiri Settlement in Labasa on Fiji's second largest island - Vanua Levu.

The settlement has been in lockdown since the first case was reported there last weekend.

Fong said the group was swabbed and they all returned negative results for Covid-19

There are ongoing investigations to verify the final number of contacts, he said.

"Screening teams have swept the containment zone today and collected 84 total swabs. Screening and swabbing are also being conducted at vaccination sites and all health stations in the Labasa area," Fong said.

"Most families in the Namara Tiri lockdown area are low income earners and we know they will be heavily impacted by this lockdown."

"This is why we will be providing essential food and supplies to households in the lockdown area, with our teams making sure that Covid-19 safe measures are put in place when delivering these items."

There are 244 Covid-19 patients admitted to the hospital - 113 of them are at the Lautoka Hospital, 22 at the FEMAT field hospital, and 109 are admitted at the Colonial War Memorial, St Giles and Makoi hospitals.

Fong said 19 patients were in severe condition and 13 critical.

As of the 29 August, 558,944 adults in Fiji have received their first dose of the vaccine and 266,608 have both jabs.

"This means that 95.3 percent of the target population have received at least one dose and 45.4 percent are now fully vaccinated nation-wide."

Fiji's seven-day average of new cases per day is 289 or 327 cases per million population.

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