The country will open its borders if we reach 90% vaccination coverage, this was the assurance given by Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare during his nationwide address on Monday.
Our borders need to be opened, we desperately need to kickstart our economy, but we are in a catch 22 situation – we are part of the problem; hence the solution is with us.
So far, we are doing badly, and any hope of reaching 90% vaccination coverage seems abit farfetched, an aggressive push of our vaccination program is needed.
In other countries, their strategy is built on five pillars Test, Track, Treat, Vaccinate and adherence to Covid-19 appropriate behaviour. For us, the strategy is far simpler, vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate.
Mandatory vaccination for public servants and state-owned enterprise employees is a good start, but more needs to be done.
So, what are others doing differently? The only thing that seems different is many are setting up roadside vaccination, and house to house vaccination programs. It does seem effective if their vaccination coverage is anything to go by. What we have in Honiara and on Guadalcanal are tents set up in various locations, and people being encouraged to present themselves for vaccination. We need to do more. House to house?
Another issue is our communications strategy, we need a clear message, one that focuses on vaccination and counters all the falsehoods being spread on social media platforms. Sohini Bhattacharya, writing for the Times of India, says that concepts like post-vaccine symptoms are difficult to understand in rural, underprivileged communities.
She says that many understood an onset of fever as an indication of illness, not a process of building antibodies to fight it. She writes that initially villagers in parts of India were ready to get vaccinated, but then they heard that many people fell ill after their vaccination, many start questioning why should we take the vaccine at all?
So, a simple communication strategy for them was to tell people to expect post-vaccine symptoms, and say it over and over again. She says people need to know that this is normal, and not try to play down the effects of the vaccine.
We also need to also counter such falsehoods. For example, now it seems someone knows someone that died soon after receiving the vaccination. These stories are being spread on social media, and is discouraging people from getting vaccinated. How do we counter such falsehoods? We need to be able to report or record any and all deaths openly and transparently, what was the cause?
We have time, but time is running out, we need to reach that 90% threshold because if the pandemic does not get to us first, it will be the worsening economic situation in the country.