Kiribati, 25 May 2021 - Today, Kiribati joins Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Nauru, Tuvalu Samoa and Vanuatu, in the Pacific islands, to receive COVID-19 vaccine doses shipped via the COVAX Facility, a partnership between CEPI, Gavi, UNICEF and WHO. This is a historic step towards achieving the goal to ensure equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines globally, in what will be part of the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history.
The 25 May 2021 arrival in Tarawa of 24,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine marks the eighth country for vaccines to arrive in the Pacific region through the COVAX Facility in the global partnership’s effort to deliver at least two billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2021.
Hon. Minister of Health and Medical Services in Kiribati, Dr. Tinte Itinteang, at a small reception held at the International Airport in Tarawa to formalise the arrival of the vaccine into Kiribati, mentioned that “it is a great honour for the Government of Kiribati to receive this first batch of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine today, the 25th of May 2021, and we are thankful to WHO, UNICEF and other development partners for the continuous support that have rendered to the government. Let me assure you that this vaccine is crucial to combat this COVID-19 pandemic, which has entered our waters.”
Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccination Alliance, emphasized that “COVAX's mission is to help end the acute phase of the pandemic as soon as possible, allowing global equitable access to vaccines against COVID-19.”
“The Ministry of Health and Government of Kiribati has worked hard to be in a position to be ready to receive and distribute these vaccines,” said Dr. Wendy Snowdon, WHO Country Liaison Officer for Kiribati. “These vaccines will help to protect those most at risk from COVID-19, including health care workers and border workers, and those at most risk of the severe effects of COVID-19. I would encourage everyone in the eligible groups to be vaccinated. The COVID-19 vaccine will protect you and your family from becoming severely ill should you get infected with the virus in the future. This is one of the effective ways for us to protect our population.”
The Ministry of Health and Medical Services in Kiribati is initially targeting health care workers, border control workers, essential workers, essential travellers, those with underlying medical conditions, as well as the elderly who are 60 years and above.
For several months, COVAX partners have been supporting governments and partners in readiness efforts, in preparation for this moment. They have been especially active in working with countries benefitting from the Advance Market Commitment (AMC), an innovative financial mechanism to help secure global and equitable access for COVID-19 vaccines. This includes assisting with the development of national vaccination plans, support for cold chain infrastructure, as well as stockpiling of half a billion syringes and safety boxes for their disposal, masks, gloves and other equipment to ensure that there is enough equipment for health workers to start vaccinating priority groups as soon as possible.
Vaccines are now arriving in batches to supported countries following necessary preparatory work being completed to ensure immediate administration of vaccines to priority groups identified by national governments in their vaccine deployment plans. Kiribati has completed preparatory work and therefore is able to receive allotted vaccines from COVAX today.
As vaccines start to roll out around the world, they should complement, and not replace, proven public health measures. It is also important to expand access to rapid diagnostics and treatments, such as oxygen and dexamethasone, as advocated for by the ACT Accelerator. Kiribati, like other countries, will continue to apply tried-and-tested measures to successfully prevent and control transmission, such as border protection measures, physical distancing, masks, ventilation and hand hygiene, alongside robust programmes to test, trace, isolate and treat.
The COVAX mechanism is offering a portfolio of vaccines suitable for a range of settings and populations, and is on track to meet its goal of delivering at least two billion doses of vaccine to participating countries around the globe in 2021, including at least 1.3 billion donor-funded doses to the 92 lower-income COVAX Facility participants supported by the Gavi COVAX AMC. Kiribati welcomes the arrival of this batch of vaccines and looks forward to receiving additional batches needed to complete the vaccination of all eligible people living in Kiribati.
In ensuring the safety and efficacy of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, the vaccine has undergone rigorous clinical trials and safety assessments in order to ensure it meets the highest level of safety standards.
Notes to Editors:
COVAX, the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance Gavi) and the World Health Organization (WHO) – working in partnership with UNICEF as key implementing partner, as well as civil society organisations, vaccine manufacturers, the World Bank, and others.
Full COVAX News Note to Editors: https://www.who.int/initiatives/act-accelerator/covax/covax-news-note-to-editors
List of donor pledges to the Gavi COVAX AMC: https://www.gavi.org/sites/default/files/covid/covax/COVAX-AMC-Donors-Table.pdf
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