Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare says that the country cannot stay locked up forever, and has directed the Oversight Committee to look at the possibility of reopening our borders, once certain thresholds are reached.

One of those thresholds is the vaccination rate of the eligible population, the Prime Minister has suggested a vaccination rate of 80% to 100% of the eligible population.

Solomon Islands vaccination rates are some of the lowest in the Pacific region, perhaps just slightly better than that of PNG. To date less than 6% of our eligible population have been fully vaccinated, and close to 12% have received their first jab.

The most recent national census puts the Solomon Islands population at 721,455. However, only 359,690 are eligible for the vaccine - those 18 years old and above.

Based on our current vaccination rates we still need to fully vaccinate 312,144 of the eligible population. If we are to reach the 80-100% vaccination coverage by November we will need to vaccinate close to 5,000 people per day. We are currently doing less than 250 per day. We need to be creative in the way in which we push our vaccination programs. We cannot rely on outreach and awareness; we need to be willing to give incentives.

In Fiji there is a Lottery Sweepstakes called “Win Together” where those that have completed their COVID-19 vaccination are put into a draw to win FJD$51,000 cash. To date, 97% of their eligible population have received their first dose and close to 60% have been fully vaccinated – they are on track to open their borders in November.

Now that most of the provinces have launched their vaccination drive, perhaps it is time to consider additional incentives – and there are plenty of lessons elsewhere to draw from.