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Australia-UNICEF partnership to boost Solomon Islands’ COVID-19 response efforts with 150,930 doses of Pfizer vaccines

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Honiara, Solomon Islands, 29 April 2022 – Australia has provided 150,930 Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses, under a partnership with UNICEF, to support Solomon Islands’ national vaccine rollout.

The vaccines were handed over by the Australian High Commissioner to Solomon Islands, H.E. Dr. Lachlan Strahan, and UNICEF Pacific’s Chief of Solomon Islands Field Office, Dr. Zelalem Taffesse, to the Ministry of Health’s National Medical Store team this week.

COVID-19 vaccine supply and access remains a serious challenge globally, making it difficult for most countries to fully vaccinate and protect their populations. These doses will help ensure that Solomon Islands has adequate stocks to protect communities against the spread of COVID-19, which has put thousands of people at risk of severe illness.

“The Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 vaccination operations have greatly benefitted from the generous support of the Australian Government through a consistent supply of the AstraZeneca vaccines since mid-2021. We are indeed grateful to receive this additional support of 150, 930 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. We thank the Government of Australia for the donation and UNICEF for enabling the safe arrival of the vaccines in-country,” said the Hon. Minister of Health and Medical Services, Dr. Culwick Togamana.

These doses of Pfizer vaccines will be administered to children who are between 12 to 18 years of age and pregnant mothers for their primary first and second dose. In addition, the Pfizer vaccines will also be administered as a booster dose for those 18 years of age and above as well as those 12 years and over who are or will be eligible for booster in the coming months.

“The donation is timely as we work towards implementing a further scale up of COVID-19 vaccination roll out in all provinces,” the Hon. Minister added. In light of the recent surge in cases of COVID-19 in the country, especially in Honiara, and the ongoing plans to reopen schools, I encourage the 12 to 18 years of age population, with the consent and support of parents and guardians, to get vaccinated as soon as you have the opportunity.”

“This will protect both yourselves, and vulnerable persons in schools, in our households and communities. I also encourage pregnant mothers to get vaccinated as soon as you have the opportunity to protect yourself and your baby against the harmful effects of COVID-19.”

“Furthermore, for those who have reached five months or more since receiving your second dose, I encourage you to get your booster shot to maintain maximal protection against all variants of the COVID-19 virus,” said the Hon. Minister.

“The arrival of these doses marks a milestone in Australia’s comprehensive support for Solomon Islands’ efforts to combat COVID-19. Australia has supplied over half a million AstraZeneca and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses. Since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, Australia has been walking shoulder to shoulder with Solomon Islands, providing expert technical advice, building medical infrastructure, creating a testing capability, and supplying tonnes of medical items, including oxygen concentrators and personal protective equipment,” said the Australian High Commissioner to Solomon Islands, H.E. Dr. Lachlan Strahan.

“We look forward to continuing this partnership with the Ministry of Health and Medical Services and UNICEF to support the vaccine rollout as a critical part of the COVID-19 response.”

In addition to donating vaccines, Australia and UNICEF have also supported the operational aspects of the vaccine rollout across ten provinces, including training of vaccination teams, logistics and transport, and risk communications activities.

“UNICEF and our partners are working closely to support our Solomon Islands’ children and families against the growing threats of COVID-19,” said UNICEF Pacific’s Chief of Solomon Islands Field Office, Dr. Zelalem Taffesse. “We thank the Government of Australia for our enduring partnership, as well as the Ministry of Health and Medical Services for their leadership and efforts to keep communities safe during the current transmission. UNICEF urges eligible persons across the country to step forward and be vaccinated.”

Solomon Islands, along with the rest of the world, is dealing with COVID-19, one of the most profound health and economic crises in history. Australia, together with UNICEF, is working closely with the Solomon Islands Government to save lives, advance economic recovery, support health systems to recover from this pandemic as well as protect against future pandemics.

Australia and UNICEF remain committed to support the full roll-out of COVID-19 vaccinations in Solomon Islands under the strong leadership of the Ministry of Health and Medical Services.

About Solomon Islands’ Ministry of Health and Medical Services:

The Ministry of Health and Medical Services is responsible to lead, improve and strengthen the Solomon Island health system in service to the Government and the people to deliver quality health service, reduce sickness, prevent the loss of young lives and relieve suffering.

About the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade:

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) promotes and protects Australia’s international interests to support our security and prosperity. We work with international partners and other countries to tackle global challenges, increase trade and investment opportunities, protect international rules, keep our region stable and help Australians overseas.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and at www.dfat.gov.au.

For more information, please contact:

Atenia Tahu, Ministry of Health and Medical Services, Tel: +677 7478857, ATahu@moh.gov.sb

Marikki Watego, Australian High Commission Third Secretary, Marikki.watego@dfat.gov.au

Zubnah Khan, UNICEF Pacific, Tel: +679 9988137, zukhan@unicef.org