New research by the Lowy Institute suggests the Solomon Islands may not be able to reach its target 90% vaccination coverage.
Cabinet had earlier set the target vaccination coverage to re-open borders at 90 percent of the total eligible population of 414,327 people, meaning at least 372,895 people will need to be vaccinated.
The research states that based on the current vaccination trajectory, Solomon Islands will likely reach only 66% by December 2022, well below the 90% target set by the government. This scenario means Solomon Islands will remain exposed should there be an outbreak of COVID-19, and will likely have to keep its borders shut for some time.
Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has stated that Solomon Islands cannot stay locked up from the rest of the world forever and has been urging Solomon Islanders to take the COVID-19 vaccination. He says this is the only way the country can fight COVID-19, and the only way the country can return to some normalcy.
Fiji and smaller Pacific Island nations in Polynesia and Micronesia have already achieved or are close to reaching key vaccination benchmarks, making it much easier for them to re-open to the outside world.
Lowy Institute’s Mr Dayant, in an interview with the ABC, said Solomon Islands, Vanuatu — and, particularly, Papua New Guinea — were struggling with vaccine hesitancy and outright resistance.
"The issue in these countries is a combination of a limited number of healthcare workers, weak government capacity, large rural populations and misinformation," Mr Dayant said.
"In a region where social media has become the primary conduit for news consumption, conspiracy and conjecture about the vaccine have spread faster than the disease itself.
"This has fed into an already-low level of trust in formal and public institutions."
He suggests that development partners in these countries needed to help counter misinformation through sustained campaigns.
"You could help design more targeted and context-specific campaigns across a range of platforms to convey the message [that] the vaccine is safe," he said.