25 Nov 2021

Single-dose Covid-19 vaccines arriving soon in Vanuatu

10:12 am on 25 November 2021

Vanuatu is set to receive its first batch of 14,400 Johnson and Johnson single-dose Covid-19 vaccines next month.

Covid-19 vaccinations being given in Vanuatu.

Covid-19 vaccinations being administered in Vanuatu. Photo: Supplied/ Health Promotions Vanuatu

The vaccines were confirmed following an indemnity agreement signed between the Vanuatu government and the international COVAX Facility yesterday.

This would be the third vaccine to be used in Vanuatu, after AstraZeneca and Sinopharm.

The vaccines will be supplied by the governments of the Netherlands and Portugal, through COVAX.

The single-dose vaccine is ideal for hard-to-reach and more remote communities where people have to walk long distances to the vaccination sites and recalling people for a second dose might be a challenge.

Ministry of health acting director general Samuel Posikai said J&J was chosen because of the easy distribution to remote areas. It is an attractive option for health workers who may face logistic challenges in reaching rural areas to administer second doses.

Samuel said the only difference between J&J and other Covid-19 vaccines is that it is a single dose. The strength of protection against coronavirus is similar to other WHO-approved vaccines like AstraZeneca and Sinopharm.

The government is focussing on administrating shots to as many citizens as possible, to meet the national target of having 90 percent of the adult population vaccinated with at least one dose by the end of this year, and 70 percent fully vaccinated by the end of March 2022.

Government information showed that by the beginning of this week 64 percent of adults over 18 years old in high priority areas have had at least one dose, and 55 percent of those over 18 nationwide.

Minister of finance Johnny Koanapo said the faster more people are vaccinated, the quicker the international border will be reopened to boost the country's economic growth.

"According to a study released by the Lowy Institute the slow vaccination rate in Vanuatu, and other Pacific countries like Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, resulted from factors which include misinformation," he said.

"Our borders need to be reopened to stir up our economy and recovery. Based on the report, our economy recovery growth will remain slow for the next years if the vaccination rate remains slow. This is not what the government want.

"We cannot open the border until we reach our national vaccination target. Therefore, everyone has a responsibility to act - get vaccinated and protect each other against coronavirus."

Finance minister Koanapo signed the agreement Tuesday, on behalf of the government, to bring in the third Covid-19 vaccine.

UNICEF Vanuatu chief Eric Durpaire confirmed that Vanuatu is expected to receive a second batch of J&J vaccines later, in a similar quantity.

WHO representative Dr Philippe Guyant said a plan to identify coverage areas and outline the distribution channel for Vanuatu will be developed soon.

-Pacific News Agency

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