Around 40 nurses from Honiara City Council, Guadalcanal, Western, Choiseul and Malaita provinces who are being selected as vaccinators to administer the first 24,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, AstraZeneca, have gathered as of Monday this week in Honiara for their one-week vaccination training.

The training includes introduction and overview of AstraZeneca vaccine, its safety and efficacy and regulatory considerations, handling and administration, its cold chain and storage, delivery strategies and demand generation.

Delivering brief remarks on behalf of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Simon Burggraaf, WHO’s Immunization Specialist, highlighted to participants the safety and efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“WHO has approved the AstraZeneca vaccine for emergency use which essentially means that it has fulfilled all safety and efficacy requirements to effectively protect us from COVID-19, and the training this week in itself is crucial in our preparedness to receive and roll out the the vaccine. Therefore WHO is pleased to be supporting this training of AstraZeneca vaccine for vaccinators”.

Dr Burggraaf assured that WHO will continue to provide technical advice and guidance every step of the way until all citizens are vaccinated.

UNICEF Expanded Progamme of Immunization (EPI) Specialist Dr Ibrahim Dadari also echoed similar sentiments stating that UNICEF is also pleased to have supported efforts of the Ministry of Health and partners to secure COVID-19 doses.

“It’s not an easy task given the high global demand of the vaccine nevertheless the first batch to arrive this week is in itself a success and UNICEF is very pleased to have also supported the shipment of the vaccines to Honiara via its global supply division."

Dr Dadari explained for UNICEF children is at the core of our mandate however while persons under 18 years of age including children and infants will not be vaccinated at this stage, getting persons 18 years and above vaccinated will at least provide some degree of protection for the children and infants for now.

Chair of the COVID-19 vaccine technical working group Dr Divinal Ogaoga thanked both the government of Australia for its funds that was used to implement the training and expressed appreciation to the ongoing support of WHO and UNICEF to the ministry in its efforts to acquire the COVID-19 vaccines and preparations for its roll out to the population.

“Your continuous technical inputs and guidance with regards to the COVID-19 vaccines have enabled us to reach where we are today in our efforts to acquire the AstraZeneca vaccines and the necessary preparations required prior to the arrival of the vaccines," stated Dr Ogaoga.

Dr Ogaoga also thanked all the participants at the training encouraging them to fully utilize the week- long training to learn as much as possible as well as clear any doubts and anxieties.

“You are all tasked with a very important duty, that is to administer the first batch of the COVID-19 vaccine to arrive in country, therefore it is very important that you yourselves take as much as possible from the training to enhance your readiness to administer the vaccines”, explained Dr Divi.

The Ministry of Health of Medical Services (MHMS) is leading the training with funds from the government of Australia through its Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade with technical support from the WHO and UNICEF.

The Ministry also remains grateful to GAVI and the COVAX Facility for supporting Solomon Islands in securing COVID-19 vaccine doses especially in these challenging times.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to arrive end of this week.

Source: MHMS Media Release