MHMS: Response to “One but Langi” news article

The Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) would like to clarify the COVID-19 vaccine related news article published on Monday this week mockingly  titled “ One but Langi”, and negatively framed with  direct quotes from Dr Yogesh Choudhri MHMS”s Health Emergencies and International Health Regulation Advisor, made during the recent Sunday COVID-19 (date) Oversight Committee Radio Talk Back Show. 

Read Article here for context to the response; https://theislandsun.com.sb/one-but-langi/

GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, a global health agency co-leading the COVAX facility, had issued a call for expression of interest to its member countries in January 2021, Solomon Islands included, for an initial vaccine allocation with the Pfizer vaccines enough to cover  most critical frontlines. In response, the Ministry of Health submitted its letter of interest to GAVI Monday this week. Once approved we will receive COVID-19 vaccines to vaccinate over a thousand people ( around 0.25% of the total population) and based on the National Roll Out Plan this would mean the most critical front liners for a start. This was what Dr. Choudhri during the Sunday (17 January) COVID-19 Oversight Committee radio talkback show was referring to when providing an update on progress with COVID-19 vaccines. 

The submission requesting the COVID-19 vaccine to GAVI in December 2020 and also reported by the Ministry then was for 370,000 COVID-19 vaccines to cater for up to half of the total population. Response from GAVI to this submission is yet to be received.

However once approved, we will receive through co-financing arrangement, 370,000 COVID-19 vaccines, to cater for around half of the country’s entire population. Under the co-financing arrangement, 20 percent of the total cost of the 370,000 vaccines will be met by GAVI and the other 30 percent jointly funded by the Solomon Islands Government and GAVI. Additional vaccines to cover for the remaining 50 percent of the population of is the one that is currently being discussed by the government and bilateral partners.

In essence, it means that the figure of 0.25% or vaccinating between 1700-1800 people is just the start. The vaccines are under short supply across the globe and will be available on an ongoing basis, especially when additional vaccines are covered under WHO Emergency Use Listing. One may say this is the first tranche of vaccine likely to be made available in Solomon Islands and more will be coming gradually.

The Pfizer vaccine that GAVI is offering in which health submitted its expression of interest to this week, requires storage of –70 degree Celsius (Negative 70 or minus 70 degree Celsius). With this, the ministry has plans in place to manage and administer these vaccines. 

Therefore, the plan to initially conduct mass vaccination for up to around 50 percent of the population remains intact and not less than 1 percent as wrongly interpreted in the news article. 

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