Australia and our close friends in the Pacific and Timor-Leste are facing unprecedented challenges. However, our commitment and determination to work together is ensuring we can protect the health and safety of our people.
I am proud that we are finding new ways to collaborate so that we can overcome this pandemic, and build systems that will support better health and improved preparedness for future infectious disease outbreaks.
In all my conversations with counterparts across the Pacific, I have been humbled by the heartfelt support as Australia faces renewed threats from COVID-19.
We are pleased to assist our neighbours in return.
Australia has shared more than 1.7 million vaccines with our Pacific and Timor-Leste family already, and we are rapidly increasing this number with new deliveries each week.
We have committed to provide up to 15 million Australian vaccine doses with the Pacific and Timor-Leste by mid-2022. These vaccines meet internationally accepted safety and efficacy standards, having been approved by our Therapeutic Goods Administration and, more recently, having received emergency listing approval by the World Health Organization.
The Australian vaccines being shared with the Pacific and Timor-Leste are the very same vaccines being used in Australia. More than 9 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been administered as part of Australia’s own rollout, accounting for more than half of the vaccines administered in Australia to date.
I extend my sincere gratitude to the frontline heroes – the logistics coordinators, health care workers, drivers, and more, who are making sure vaccines are being rapidly administered to keep our communities safe. Vaccines are saving lives in my country, your country, in our region, and across the globe. The faster we can achieve comprehensive vaccine coverage, the faster we can reopen businesses, schools, and trade and tourism links.
Australia’s High Commissioner to Solomon Islands, Dr Lachlan Strahan, said “Australia is committed to supporting the Solomon Island Government in its fight against COVID-19, including by providing AstraZeneca vaccines. A further 50,000 Australian manufactured AstraZeneca doses will arrive in Honiara on 27 August to boost the Solomon Island Government’s campaign to vaccinate people across the country.”
Australia is donating our vaccines across the Pacific because it is the right thing to do. But our engagement is also driven by our shared interests. We depend on each other for improved health, security and prosperity. Over the years, through tropical cyclones and droughts and bushfires, our region has demonstrated its support for each other in good times and bad. And in this pandemic, Australia is absolutely committed to standing shoulder to shoulder with our Pacific family.
Australia’s sharing of vaccine doses builds on our decades of partnership with the Pacific, including to help bolster health and education systems. That’s why our support is about more than just vaccines. We are also providing personal protective equipment, COVID-19 testing equipment, technical advice, and funds to employ health workers. Our Pacific Flights Program continues to be instrumental in keeping supply chains open and transporting vaccines.
Our region shares unique and enduring ties, underpinned by a shared history, common national interests, deep community links, and mutual respect. As we have since the beginning of the pandemic, Australia is committed to working together on the shared challenge of protecting the health of our people and striving towards our region’s economic recovery.
Senator the Hon. Zed Seselja is Austrralia's Minister for International Development and the Pacific.