Covid-19 vaccine rolls out starts in parts of the Pacific

Covid-19 vaccinations begin in the Northern Mariana Islands this weekend, but it’s not yet clear when other Pacific countries will have access to a vaccine.

The Northern Marianas, which is a US territory, was expecting 5,000 doses of the The Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to arrive during the week, and vaccinations to start today, RNZ Pacific correspondent Mark Rabago said.

The vaccine had already been approved in the USA and UK. It must be stored at around -70C, and transported in special boxes, packed in dry ice.

Once delivered, it can be kept for up to five days in a fridge.
“A couple of weeks ago our government purchased and received 10 ultra cold freezers. The freezers we ordered came from South Korea, and we have two sent to Tinian and Rota and the rest will be used in Saipan,” Rabago said.

The country had already been sent a “mock package” of the vaccine as a trail, from the US federal government, to test the systems they had in place to transport and store it, which went well, he said.
“There is a first-priority group that will receive the vaccine first and they are the healthcare workers, first responders, high-risk patients and seniors.

The Solomon Islands had applied for enough vaccines for about half their population through the COVAX programme, said Solomons Ministry of Health spokesperson Pauline McNeil.

An application was made for more than 360,000 people, and if successful, this would be co-financed by the Solomon Islands Government.

“[We’ve] conducted a national cold chain capacity assessment, to check the available vaccine storage capacity, and identified gaps to be addressed prior to receiving Covid vaccine,” McNeil said.

The country has also set up a coordinating committee and technical working group, which were being supported by technical advisors at the World Health Organisation, UNICEF and the World Bank.  

Source: Radio New Zealand.

Note:  The Solomon Islands Government will, no doubt, have to obtain its own supply of ultra cold freezers to keep Covid-19 vaccines it will receive.

Yours sincerely

Frank Short