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PNG’s terrifying battle to save the nation as people choose God over Vaccine

The PNG Government has welcomed the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine as 200,000 doses arrived recently in the most populous Pacific Island nation of more than 9 million people. Yet with health authorities reporting that less than 1 per cent of the population have been vaccinated with the Oxford AstraZeneca (AZ) vaccine, questions are being asked if this will make a difference.

Administering the vaccine has been described by representatives of UNICEF as the toughest population to convince. Dr Arnold Calo-oy, a specialist with PNG UNICEF, revealed that he and his team were chased out of a rural village while talking to the people about COVID vaccines. The crippling fear of the vaccines is an alarming issue for medical researchers.

“It can be Astra Zeneca, Pfizer, or any other vaccine, (but) Papua New Guineans need to get vaccinated and it is a major hurdle to convince the population. This is the reality – period,” says Dr Livingstone Tavul, a specialist with PNG’s Institute of Medical Research’s (PNGIMR) Vector Borne Diseases Unit.

“We must not forget that vaccinations in PNG have prevented many deaths from polio, tetanus, measles, influenza, hepatitis A & B, rubella, HIV, whooping cough, chicken pox and many more, yet COVID vaccinations are rejected. It simply does not make sense.”

Australian high commissioner to PNG Jon Philp gets his vaccination. Photo: Anton Selve

Australia, along with a few mining companies, educational institutions, medical organisations, church institutions, media outlets, WHO, UNICEF and other non-profit organizations are still actively creating awareness campaigns surrounding the virus and vaccines, yet many in PNG feel that they are immune to the virus.

“Others believe that they will be saved through prayer and the power of God completely,” says Sir Peter Barter, PNG’s former Minister for Health and the current patron of PNGIMR.

Comments by readers on the Pacific Advocate’s Facebook page highlight the significant suspicion held by many in PNG about the virus. False information and conspiracy theories are common (the Pacific Advocate has deleted comments that are false and misleading), but most in this deeply Christian nation simply trust God more than politicians.

“We humans as intelligents (sic) of the highest order are gambling with our lives on these. We can’t live to let someone to control your freedom of choice,” says one comment.

“JM (The prime minister) should know that this country has been protected by God almighty.”

“I will only trust my GOD I will no get vaccine.”

“It’s not about a virus. It’s about control.”

Other comments pointed to a deep concern about China’s influence.

“We are NOT needing it in PNG and NO thanks for that too. Have it all by yourself because it’s Chinese disease and NOT PNG disease.”

“The Chinese created the virus and are now creating another virus?”

“The (sic) probably either threatened PNG or offered some attractive deals to PM to officially go on media and promote Chinese vaccine.”

“Country is flooded with fake Chinese good, yet we are accepting Chinese made vaccine.”

“So is the new normal about the government allowing itself to be used easily as pawns by external entities?”

PNGIMR has released a Q&A booklet designed by the Melanesian Foundation to set the record straight, and it was recently launched by Australia’s high commissioner to PNG Jon Philip.

“Materials such as the COVID booklet can dispel false and misleading information that has already caused panic here in PNG,” says Mr Philip.

Sir Peter Barter & Aust high commissioner Jon Philp launching the Q&A book. Photo: Anton Selve

From the 200,000 doses of the Chinese vaccines, 20,000 will be reserved for Chinese nationals living in PNG, leaving 150,000 for the locals, but this vaccine seems to terrify locals even more.

Sir Peter believes the Chinese Government should be meeting the costs to build awareness and convince the population to get vaccinated.

“The expression of thanks extended by the PNG Government seems to me a horrible over reaction when you consider that the COVID-19 virus originated in China and (its) devastating effect. It has infected and killed millions throughout the world,” said Sir Peter.

“Thank you to China for the vaccines, but we need….the entire population to get vaccinated first. China should accept a large part of this responsibility,” he said.

China’s pledge to assist Pacific Islands’ fight against COVID-19

The Chinese Government has already assisted many Pacific Islands with their fight against the Pandemic, according to Denghua Zhang from the Australian National University’s (ANU) Department of Pacific Affairs.

Denghua Zhang

He said China’s COVID-19 diplomacy in the Pacific consists of four types of activities: foreign aid, sharing information, publicity and the contribution of Chinese organisations and business across the Pacific.

China announced its budget of US$1.9 million to assist the region with the fight against the pandemic. In this grant, PNG received US$300,000. China also donated personal protective equipment to the PNG government. In a bizarre statement, Mr Denghua claimed that the publicity part of China’s contribution included engagement with mainstream media.

“Chinese ambassadors have published articles in newspapers in the Pacific Islands, countries such as Fiji, PNG, Samoa and Tonga, to showcase China’s achievements in COVID-19 control at home and display a willingness to support these countries.”

However Sir Peter said this was not what the region needed. “We are in dire need of awareness, the entire PNG population face extinction and we need the Chinese government to do this without the media accolades,” he said.

With the arrival of the Delta variant now in PNG’s fumbling health system, health specialists are terrified.

“Our Intensive care unit is already overstretched and I pray this this doesn’t cause it to become overwhelmed,” says Dr Glen Mola, a senior clinical consultant and physician at the Port Moresby General Hospital.

“Are we surprised that the COVID-19 Delta variant, or any other variant, is now here? Not at all, it was just a matter of time,” says Dr Livingstone.

“It is unfortunate that we now have an imported case, however PNG has an even heavier battle to face now, given our poorly-resourced health systems,” he says.

Many other smaller Pacific Islands have successfully vaccinated their population, yet the largest island in the Pacific struggles with protecting its own people.

“We all need to be vaccinated and we must all put our heads together to come up with a solution – our future depends on it.”

27 Comments
  1. Paul Mike 10 months ago
    Reply

    1. When PNG people say they are immune, it does not mean they don’t care, They are simply scared of WHAT is in the vaccine. I’m an intellect and I also question who a vaccine can be rushed to production in less than a year… those that take it first are like test rats.

    2. PNG could have been worst affected because people have always been crowding the since the pandemic and the disease has FAILED to spread, so how do you explain that? There is only one possible reason:: God has restrained the virus from spreading because of the Aug 26 2007 Covenant by the PM that formally made the God of Israel also the God of all PNG people.

    3. If people are immune it because God made them to be so because He foresaw what would come upon the world from such a Bio weapon..

  2. Peter Manus Anda 10 months ago
    Reply

    I am disappointed with Sir Peter Barter for claiming that Papua New Guineans will face extinction if they don’t get vaccinated. Are Papua New Guineans falling down like flies everday in towns, cities & rural villages ?
    We have survived on this island for the past fifty thousand years & we will still be here after Coronavirus subsides.
    We are NOT in dire need of awareness for this virus.
    People know about Coronavirus. They just refuse to get vaccinated because they don’t trust the Government, politicians, medical professionals, & foreigners.
    Most of all they don’t trust China’s vaccine. The PNG Government’s deal with China smacks of corruption within PNG Govt circles & under the table deals with PNG’s corrupt politicians to facilitate the mass dumping of China’s Sinopharm vaccine.
    We are not Guinea pigs !!!

  3. Peter Manus Anda 10 months ago
    Reply

    I am disappointed with Sir Peter Barter for claiming that Papua New Guineans will face extinction if they don’t get vaccinated. Are Papua New Guineans falling down like flies everday in towns, cities & rural villages ?
    We have survived on this island for the past fifty thousand years & we will still be here after Coronavirus subsides.
    We are NOT in dire need of awareness for this virus.
    People know about Coronavirus. They just refuse to get vaccinated because they don’t trust the Government, politicians, medical professionals, & foreigners.
    Most of all they don’t trust China’s vaccine. The PNG Government’s deal with China smacks of corruption within PNG Govt circles & under the table deals with PNG’s corrupt politicians to facilitate the mass dumping of China’s Sinopharm vaccine in PNG.
    We are not Guinea pigs !!!

  4. Bradley Leima 10 months ago
    Reply

    That is a big task as us the Health Care Workers some of us are not giving Awareness instead we go against the Vaccine

  5. Russel Stephen 10 months ago
    Reply

    We dont need the vaccine. treat it as another flu…..we are all good KAIKAI TARO KUMU KAUKAU MAKIM SOUP WITH ADDED LOCAL SPICE WE ARE DONE NO NEED FOR VACCINE.
    THANK YOU
    RUSSEL STEPHEN.
    PNG.

  6. Steven Ponjel 10 months ago
    Reply

    The integrity of our government is the reason why people are so upset and unbelief creeps in. There is no logical sense left for our leaders to accept VACCINES from a government who also sponsored scientific research that produced the virus!

    They produce the desease and produced the vaccine that sells in huge amounts. No VACCINE NO BUSINESS! NO MASK, NO SALES! NO MARK NO SALES!

  7. Sainimili Suwary 10 months ago
    Reply

    Please, I am requesting that a vaccination team come to my school and get all the staff members vaccinated. There are approximately 40 of us and we would really appreciate the opportunity to be vaccinated all at once if that is possible. Our students are all healthy young adults from grade 9 to 12 but they can be the ones who will bring the virus to us.

  8. Donny10 10 months ago
    Reply

    I for one do not want any vaccine.
    But constitutional rights are been revoked and will dimish. Simple.
    So i sucumb and think ok, no choice eventually? Correct?
    Been to POM gen 3 times in 3 days and wasted 6 hrs of my life. Probably a higher chance of catching covid at vacc site. No controls, social distancing, security to control, Lines, process,Absolute shambles… No signage, No notifications. NO ONE knows what is going on.
    Yesterday after a long wait and speaking to someone dressed up like a surgeon said come back tomorrow we open at 7am….
    3rd visit today arrive 6am. I have work like most people trying to survive. (Believe it or not not all employers who are trying to sustain the economy can afford or WILL pay there staff to line up for hours if not days to get vacc). First in line… 7am… 8am…. some random national lady areives ( God bless her as poor lady got thousand questions and demands to answer) to inform everyone that vaccinations are from 2-4pm Mon – Fri only? is this like a business trading….? one would think Sat / Sun and possibly 4pm -12am would be a great option for working people? Not 35 degrees and some inside the tent for patients and nurses? Last 2 days they have vacc 60 & 70 people… long way to go for 5 Mil not accounting for 2nd doses.
    So expectation is to line up all day to get a consent form and more than likely NOT make the cut from 2-4pm and be told to return the next day…. .
    Why cant you have 2 tents… one to obtain a consent form and with a scheduled date for vacc and return on that day… hence aid post know exactly how many people are scheduled on that day… how many vaccs and staff required…
    I wonder if it is all a power and control game….. People are dying of Starvation, basic needs, Hospitals are run down without simple common antibiotics, people suffering and dying of malaria, dengue, TB nationwide with very little concern too which i disagree with your statement that these common diseases are all under control…..How bout make the vacc a easy process for those who want it. Organised and professional. The location chosen in my opinion is the worst possible. Why have hundreds of UN-vaccinated people enetering into public hospital grounds? One would think this is a risk in itself? CARPARKING IS GD FOR 30 Cars max! Cant imagine how many bump’s have already occurred. I understand not all people in png have cars but wouldnt a drive through vacc station minimise risk for a minority.? Including your staff?

    Im not opposed to foreign aid but
    at least have a system that is organised, this may bring a few more contenders for vaccinating.
    Sort out the logistics.
    I for one are not gunna waste anymore of my time visiting… rather concentrate on being at my place of employment so can maintain my health and take my chances as oppose to standing in the sun for hours…. no water provided… ( im sure that is a reccomendation to be well hydrated prior to vaccine )…..

    Opinions are still free… that is one right i dont think will be revoked even with this panademic

    Best of luck.

    • Abel Philip 10 months ago
      Reply

      The Papua New Guinea is a democratic country and people have right to make decisions in against
      their life’s because of freedom of choice .The government and WHO of PNG don’t confuse
      some people have injection vaccine and they get sick .. Don’t follow the scientists Ideas that it’s a vaccine because your government didn’t know the first product of vaccine ..It’s only Finish product and your force people to get vaccine think big beyond …

  9. Jack Lepi 10 months ago
    Reply

    We the PNGians are down in technology, underdeveloped, less modernised.
    But one thing we strongly believe is The Word of the Lord. We believe in the God who promised to protect us. We relate the virus developments and spreading of the virus through technology, science and research as fulfilling of the Bible propecies.
    If citizens of developed countries can die in big numbers compare to PNGians who die most likely by other dieses less compare to Covid19, then we don’t need the vaccine. Full stop.

    • TANO SAM 10 months ago
      Reply

      Yes we as png.nation are just at the point to world system through vaccine awarness 060606. But my family members and people are on great fear because our Bible or God word makes it clear to us of what is happening now through this vaccine injection happening. Some are will to get this vaccine injection into their bodies.please we need your prayers thanks in Jesus Christ and God to be Glory for every.

  10. Kuma John Parick 10 months ago
    Reply

    The PNG government and its partners in the fight against COVID-19 must engage community based organisations nation wide to do awareness to correct misinformation and educate the people about the advantages of being vaccinated.

    Thank you.

  11. Bob Fulton 10 months ago
    Reply

    “From the 200,000 doses of the Chinese vaccines, 20,000 will be reserved for Chinese nationals living in PNG, leaving 150,000 for the locals, but this vaccine seems to terrify locals even more.”

    Mathematically that doesn’t compute? What happened to 30,000 doses?

    The PNG population’s mist trust of the vaccinations is to be expected as Peter Barter, a 50 plus year resident and citizen of PNG, should know. The poor majority grass roots population have no confidence in politicians, no faith in Government and reject Government policy and media promoting Covid vaccinations, the result of 45 years of corrupt and incompetent politicians and Government employees.

    Why are leaders such as Peter Barter, Bryan Kramer et al not out there campaigning for political integrity and accountability to restore the people’s confidence in their politicians and Government and bringing to justice those who have profited obscenely from graft and corruption?

  12. ann731844@gmail.com 10 months ago
    Reply

    GOD
    BLESS
    Papua New Guinea

  13. Freddy 10 months ago
    Reply

    No pandemic in png,,,,we are not dieing on the streets or bushes like flies,,,,why force this vaccine

    • Singhu 10 months ago
      Reply

      I am an educated Papua New Guinean. Papua New Guineans have NOT been severely affected by this pandemic. We have lived through ages against all odd diseases.
      Yes, we have been vaccinated with polio, malaria etcetera.
      But, why all of a sudden you want to vaccinate us with your so called Covid19 Vaccine when it has not gone through approved process of medically certified?

      There are whole lot of rushed decisions by reputable organizations and we are suspicious about this vaccine.

      Papua New Guineans we have our deep rooted Christian principles and also we have some of the highly protective immune system which God Himself has created in us to fight diseases.

      DO NOT TAKE THE VACCINE Papua New Guineans. If we die, it’s better to die believing in God than being vaccinated and die. If muslims can die in their faith, why NOT Christians.
      God Bless Papua New Guineans.

  14. Zeph Waviki 10 months ago
    Reply

    The early missionaries came landed on the shores of Papua New Guinea more than a century ago. Whilst the early churhes in the Western civilization dramatically dropped to 7 percent in the 21st century when the theory of evolution was published. PNG kept the Bible and God of Isreal which produce most it’s elites thru mission ran schools.
    The powerful economics can deploy thier technology and lab diseases with politician through fundings but not easily with the local populace as their faith in thier Lord God was ingrained to them a century ago.

  15. Maureen Tom 10 months ago
    Reply

    Some of us refuse to be vaccinated because we have health conditions like: High blood pressure, asthma, diabetes, heart problems etc.
    We are not sure of the side effects that the vaccine may bring in a year or two down. Sorry, but vaccine should be voluntary, not forced. People are dying of other diseases like TB and asthma which have some similar symptoms to COVID 19 and yet, no strict health enforcement like what is happening to COVID 19.
    Sorry, it won’t be that easy to vaccinate the population or even doing awareness.

  16. Kenneth Karagu 10 months ago
    Reply

    During the first wave of the COVID-19 ,the media was quick to report new rise in positive COVID-19 cases.Some death cases were also reported but most if not all citizens brushed this rumour aside as false and misleading.Instead they prayed more to God as the only defender and provider to our Christian Nation.Ofcourse we were spared. Many people are confused about the nature of the miracle that saved us and no body even bothered to asked questions or reaffirm God as our protector.

    Then comes the second wave of covid 19.The government of PNG mobilized its effort as best as it could to provide isolation centers with its deteriorating medical facilities and understaffed nurses and doctors to handle about 8 million PNG citizens.If there was a real outbreak, we would be the first to be wiped out on the face of the map.Still no one learnt from the first miracle to speak out either.

    Now there is already a rumour circulating of a third variant called the Delta Variant and a first ever case was reported.On the contrary…our people here in PNG ,who are most often criticized and rated by the first and second world countries as poor,corrupt,practices cannibalism and will take another century or so to be given equal statues to other major world player countries are bracing for the third wave….BUT they are more than positive in faith that God is going to spare them one more time….

    So here is the question now…why the vaccines when we continue to operate in crowded places without a single act of concern about the danger posed by the COVID-19….?

  17. John luka 10 months ago
    Reply

    Please bear in mind that most Papua New Guinean s Wil not altered their antibodies with any foreign substance like covid-19 vaccine, God Almighty has put the shield of faith spiritually that it protect the People of Papua New Guinea from this corona virus pandemic.
    We know that God will not make himself stupid when he created us, we are being created fearfully and wonderfully with all antibodies functioning perfectly.

  18. Robert Kivang 10 months ago
    Reply

    Reading few paragraphs of the ‘Pacific Advocate’ I am not impressed about the so called ‘misinformation’. Many of us now access information from very reputable source ,from individuals testimony with short video clips etc testifying the effect of the vaccine. So how could the article say misinformation?
    So, any articles/ statements/ policies advocating for these vaccines are purely forcing people to be vaccinated. Here in PNG, we cannot be convinced. For we already know the truth about these vaccines through the information we access. So please don’t try to make us look stupid. We know we are rejecting the vaccines out right. IT IS THE DEVIL’S/ SATAN’S/ LUCIFER’S PLAN TO TAKE AS MANY PEOPLE AS HE WANTS TO HELL. WE KNOW THE TRUTH. CAN’T BE LIED TO SATAN’S AGENTS ANYMORE because these vaccines will kill in the next couple of years to remove the old generations of humans for the new ones that will be created through genetically engineering. Least we don’t know: it’s a world genocide. THANKS.
    SO NO NO NO NO VACCINATION.

  19. Jakes Philips 10 months ago
    Reply

    A country of Attitude Problem Intellectuals, Illiterates and christians! A know-it-all type fools of the highest order – a single search online in Wikipedia and CNN and already think they acquired the a degree in basic medical sciences. The medically illiterates believe speculations and wild theories of like minds. Off course no one can be sure of the long term effects of these vaccines. And how could they? We havent had time to run long 5 year through 10 and 20 years trials of these vaccines. And sure, these vaccines take years to pass various stages before being accepted, and thus cast doubts too. What is sure is that COVID19 is killing people world wide. Melanesians in Fiji are now suffering with spikes in cases. We have seen wars and destructions to civilizations and countries and people all because of stupid believe in a lousy religion throughout histories.

  20. Hughes Mileng 10 months ago
    Reply

    COVID-19 centers are empty. People go about their daily business in PNG, travelling in buses, going to the market, and nobody is dropping dead. We do not have a COVID-19 Pandemic in PNG, so we don’t need the vaccine. Stop wasting our time and money and let PNG go back to the old normal!

  21. Frank Rapa 10 months ago
    Reply

    PNG had no problem with past Vaccine, countless number of them over the years. At school age I can’t remember howmany shots went up my harms, just too many. The last one was when I was working, thyphoid Vaccination for three times. Actually ALL the Vaccination has worked I my body wonderfully.
    The difference between now and past is Facebook and Internet. Now 70% of our population access’ mobile so they easily access NEGATIVE, ANTI VACCINATION campaigns from Australians and Americans especially, that has send the wrong signal across the nation and that alone is the single biggest cause of the attitude shown by 90% of PNGs population. I myself am scared because alot of negative results of the Vaccine has been posted on Facebook, Utube and shared on WhatsApp and other applications on internet. After seeing those, I am more scared of the Vaccine than Covid 19 itself.

  22. Daniel Wape 10 months ago
    Reply

    I don’t see people dying like that in India and other countries… we have survived and we will survive through…

  23. Debbie 10 months ago
    Reply

    PNG has survived the first two Covid-19 waves and now there’s a third wave and the government are trying to convince the people to get vaccinated. But before getting the people vaccinated, I would like to ask all the Parliament Members with their wives and kids to get vaccinated first. Can you please explain how people are recovering from Covid-19? And another thing, when a person dies from Covid-19, does the government and responsible health workers bury the body at a specific location, if so then where is this land? I raise this question because it’s stated that the virus still lives on even if that person dies and anyone who touches that body will immediately contract the virus. If the families are making the burial arrangements then how do you explain why the families are doing these arrangements instead of the government? It is true that a majority of the people have faith in God, and for PNG, God has proved himself by protecting the nation during the first two waves. They also believe that he will provide that same protection over the nation once more from the Delta Variant.”But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong” – 1 Corinthians 1:27. I believe that the God of Israel saved PNG and He deserves to be exalted on High!!!

  24. Brian Mandu 9 months ago
    Reply

    My view is that PNG is a Christian nation so God will intervene and solve the disease, Revelation 13:1-18 thanks

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