Isabel Province launched its COVID-19 vaccination program at the provincial capital, Buala, yesterday with heads and representatives of the tri-system of governance, Premier Hon Leslie Kikolo, Rt. Reverend Bishop Ellison Quity and Representative of the Chiefs, Oliver Hiromana the first to receive the vaccines from the provincial roll out batch.

The launch also marked Isabel province as the 7th province to launch and commence roll out of COVID-19 vaccines with only Makira, Temotu and Rennell and Bellona provinces remaining.

At the launch, over a hundred people both government workers including the public gathered in Buala in front of the Assembly hall for the event. Many listened with great curiosity. Speeches delivered at the launch event and the vaccination of leaders that followed suit in front of the public greatly helped to address doubts, fear and anxieties amongst the public.

Isabel Provincial Health Director Dr Tony Quity in his address highlighted the need for people to get vaccinated. “These vaccines itself, its availability in the province or country, will do nothing to us if all persons 18 years and above in Isabel and the country do not come forward to get it. Getting the vaccines into our bodies is what matters the most”.

“Our provincial health system though work is ongoing to improve it, it is not yet enough to be able to tackle any community transmission of the virus. Thus the only means there is to enable us effectively fight against the health effects of CVOID-19 is to get vaccinated”, stated Dr Quity.

Representative of the Chiefs, Oliver Hiromana in his remarks, strongly urge the people of Isabel to not take the vaccine roll out lightly.

“Our government and the Ministry of Health have worked really hard to get these vaccines to our province so we must play our part in coming forward to get vaccinated. Besides, we have heard that our children below 18 years are not yet eligible which means their protection against the COVID-19 diseases very much lies with us the adults in getting vaccinated”, said the Isabel Chief’s representative.

Church representative Rt. Reverend Bishop Ellison Quity advocated for ethical decisions to be made with regards to the vaccines, especially at this pandemic time.

“Ethical decisions is needed more than ever to save us from the pandemic. We do not have the cure thus we need to take preventative measures, as prevention is better than cure. Refusing to get vaccinated, you will be the one spreading the virus thus causing harm to others.

"If your wife or husband, children or any members of your family gets really sick, hospitalized or dies because of contracting the virus from you, do not blame the government, nor the church and chiefs. Blame yourselves. COVID-19 does not respect anyone, weather you’re a clergy man, politician, or someone of high or low status it can affect us all."

The Rt. Reverend Bishop Ellison Quity in closing his remarks said that to demonstrate confidence in the vaccines that it is safe, he together with the premier and representative of the chiefs will be the first to get vaccinated.

Health Permanent Secretary Mrs Pauline McNeil who was in Isabel early this week to join the launch program shared the realities of the devastation caused by the virus globally as well as within the Pacific region.

“Let me be frank, as I speak, families are torn, children left without parents, pregnant mothers who rightfully deserve to be the first to hold the new life that they bring into the world instead die while giving birth.

"Couples and family members saying their final goodbyes only through mobile phones, medical workers playing God as to who lives and who dies due to shortage of oxygen bottles, economies shrink and people left without jobs, lockdown badly affecting livelihood, let alone the mental health issues. These are real devastating experiences caused by COVID-19.

“Unimaginable if it was to happen to us, that is the very reason why the Ministry of Health is working tirelessly to get the vaccines close to you and the only request we have to all of you is to come forward and get vaccinated. It is safe and effective to prevent us from falling severely sick, hospitalized and die from COVID-19. It is COVID-19 that kills”, said Mrs McNeil.

Delivering the key - note address, Premier of Isabel Province Hon. Leslie Kikolo informed the public in attendance that at the start of the pandemic, the people of Isabel have been adhering to COVID-19 public health measures as instructed by public health experts, including limiting travels outside of our borders.

“These have greatly enabled us to keep us safe from COVID-19 and today we have another opportunity to further enhance our ability to stay protected against COVID-19 diseases through the COVID-19 vaccines which is also the most best and effective means through which we can return to normalcy.

“In the event of a community transmission, getting fully vaccinated can help in breaking the chain of transmission, protecting others and stop further development of new strains. These are messages from our health experts which we must pay close attention to and action immediately by taking the vaccines."

The premier also used the occasion to reiterate the, “No Jab No Job”, policy of the government while assuring that the Isabel provincial government will continue to support the national government, ministry of health and provincial health teams in current efforts against COVID-19 and vaccination roll out.

Over 21,000 people in Isabel province are eligible to receive the vaccines. Total of 3200 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine doses have been deployed to the province for initial roll out with more batches of the vaccines to be deployed in the coming weeks and months.

Following the launch 235 doses have been administered which is the highest recorded so far from all provincial launches and MHMS is looking forward to similar outcomes with vaccine launch from the remaining provinces.

Source: MHMS Media Release