Solomon Islands has received COVID-19 vaccines from the Government of New Zealand through the COVAX Facility – a partnership co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the World Health Organization (WHO), with UNICEF as the key delivery partner.

The 100,800 doses of the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine will contribute towards fully vaccinating additional 50,000 Solomon Islanders in the coming six months, in contribution towards achieving at least 90 per cent full vaccination coverage by the end of 2022.

As per WHO guidelines, this vaccine is given as single dose which means that people need to take only one dose to achieve protection against severe disease and deaths. The Ministry of Health and Medical Services will be offering this vaccine in all provinces, especially in those hard-to-reach areas, thereby reducing the operational cost considerably. WHO also advocates that if need be, a booster dose of this vaccine may be offered at six months and the Ministry will also keep part of this consignment to offer this booster dose, thereby increasing protection against COVID-19 for longer period.

These vaccines were handed over to the Solomon Islands Government by Acting New Zealand’s High Commissioner to Solomon Islands, H.E. Don Higgins, in an official ceremony held at a health warehouse in Ranadi, Honiara.

In attendance at the handover ceremony were Hon. Dr. Culwick Togamana, Health Minister, UNICEF Pacific’s Acting Chief of Solomon Islands Field Office, Geoffrey Acaye; WHO’s Public Health Officer RMNCAH/EPI Coordinator, Tracy Melissa Prasad Kofela; as well as Solomon Islands’ development partners and government officials who have also contributed to ensuring the country’s full access to vaccines for its eligible population.

“Solomon Islands is currently dealing with COVID-19 community transmission and as of last Friday, 10,778 COVID-19 cases have been recorded across the country with 129 deaths. Majority of these deaths are those unvaccinated or who have only received the first dose. More concerningly, the virus is now transmitting in our rural communities where majority of our population reside. So, having these substantial amounts of vaccines, which requires only one single dose, will ensure availability of adequate supplies. It will also provide us the opportunity to speed up coverage to reach our target population and efficiently roll out the vaccines to remote and hard to reach communities,” said the Hon. Health Minister, Dr. Culwick Togamana.

“As such, the Ministry is sincerely grateful and deeply appreciative towards the consignment of Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccines generously provided by the Government of New Zealand through the COVAX Facility, including UNICEF and WHO, to ensure equitable distribution of the vaccines and its delivery.”

To date, the country has achieved full vaccination of 40 per cent of the eligible population and with this arrival, the National Deployment and Vaccination Plan target should be reached.

“We are pleased to handover 100,800 doses of Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccines to the Ministry of Health and Medical Services today. As a whanaunga, wantok and a long-standing friend to Solomon Islands, Aotearoa New Zealand recognizes our role in supporting access to COVID-19 vaccines from procurement and to rollout to in the communities. The first line of defence is vaccination and we hope these additional doses will boost the number of vaccinated people in Solomon Islands,” said Acting New Zealand’s High Commissioner to Solomon Islands, H.E. Don Higgins.

“Aotearoa New Zealand continues to stand by the people and government of Solomon Islands in protecting against COVID-19. Ensuring the safety of our wantoks and whanau, we’re pleased to partner with the Ministry of Health and Medical Services and UNICEF. New Zealand, in 2021 has provided SBD 10 million and additional logistics to support accessible vaccinations across the country.”

“We thank the Government and people of New Zealand for supporting our joint efforts in combatting the ongoing threats posed by COVID-19 in Solomon Islands,” said UNICEF Pacific Representative, Jonathan Veitch.

“We also acknowledge the Solomon Islands Government’s strong efforts in their preparedness and response plans. UNICEF, together with our partners, will continue to support the government to ensure communities, including children, are safe and protected from this global pandemic.”

“Just like AstraZeneca, Sinopharm and Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson have similar benefits. This vaccine will reduce the risk of serious infection and will help the immune system fight the virus if an individual happens to be exposed. This vaccine will also protect you from severe illness, reduce hospitalization and even death,” said WHO’s Public Health Officer RMNCAH/EPI Coordinator, Tracy Melissa Prasad Kofela.

“In line with the Ministry, WHO is committed to making better outcomes a reality for the people of the Solomon Islands. We are here, ready to support you in your journey to fight against COVID19 transmission.”

As vaccines are now rolling out around the world, they should complement, and not replace, proven public health measures. Solomon Islands, like other countries, will continue to apply tried-and-tested measures to successfully prevent and control transmission, such as physical distancing, masks, ventilation and hand hygiene, alongside robust programmes to test, trace, isolate and treat.

Source: Joint Media Release