The reason why many countries push for its population to get vaccinated against COVID-19 is so that it can reach herd immunity.
The WHO states that 'herd immunity', also known as 'population immunity', is the indirect protection from an infectious disease that happens when a population is immune either through vaccination or immunity developed through previous infection.
The WHO states that it supports achieving 'herd immunity' through vaccination, not by allowing a disease to spread through any segment of the population, as this would result in unnecessary cases and deaths.
By way of an example, herd immunity against measles required about 95% of a population to be vaccinated. The remaining 5% will be protected by the fact that measles will not spread among those who are vaccinated.
On paper Solomon Islands should be able to achieve herd immunity. The population is small and access to vaccines is possible because of its least developing country status.
However, according to the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) as of Monday 12 of July, only 8389 people have been fully vaccinated - this is around 2% coverage of the eligible population. Even if others receive their second jab the coverage of persons fully vaccinated will increase to only 4%.
Examples of the negative health effects for a population that is not fully vaccinated is right next door. Fiji is now facing a health crisis, the spread of the COVID-19 delta variant is not slowing down, prompting the government to issue tough new rules to encourage people to get immunised against the coronavirus.
Fijian public servants have been told they will be sacked if they do not get fully vaccinated by November 1, this year. This has triggered debates on the constitutionality of such introduced regulations.
Mandatory vaccination is unpopular, and some may argue unconstitutional, so even in the worst affected countries many have not gone down that path.
Solomon Islands is fortunate in that we have managed to contain the community spread of COVID-19. But how long will that last?
It is important for the government to push for greater vaccination coverage because we still have time. How we do it is the bigger question. Will we go for a hardline approach? Or a softer approach?
A hardline approach saves money, but it will be unpopular. A softer approach will cost money because in order to convince the wider population it will require community outreach at a grand scale.
Either way, herd immunity is important for our future and that of our children. As it stands, and with the current rate of those immunized, we will not reach herd immunity in the foreseeable future.