Vaccine shortage

Concerns over wastage of Covid-19 vaccines have reached crisis point after conflicting rising cases of the virus across a number of Pacific countries have peaked.

It has thrown into question the impact of Australia’s recent decision to suspend all manufacturing of AstraZeneca vaccines will have on the region despite assurances that unwanted supply will be sent.

While more than 3.5 million doses have been donated during the pandemic, numbers have fallen in recent weeks that only complicates problems of an earlier oversupply of out-of-date vaccines.

Previous figures available from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) had indicated that only 26,500 doses were shipped out over a week throughout the Pacific, down on the 308,000 and 200,000 doses in each prior week and about 500,000 each week through September.

Australia has just delivered more than 100,000 doses to the Solomon Islands and a further 60,000 to Papua New Guinea a little more than a week ago amid pleas from their governments.

Vaccines Solomon Islands
Urgent vaccines arrive in Solomon Islands to cover up a shortage of doses. Picture: World Health Organisation

While Papua New Guinea’s vaccines are a race against time for some of its increasingly infected citizens, Solomon Islands are coping better with very few cases numbers.

But the latest number of doses come against a backdrop of having wasted a predicted 44 per cent of its vaccines mid-year.

That wastage was amid a political struggle between Honiara and a rogue province after Malaita accepted help from Taiwan in the face of the national government recognising China since 2019.

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Samoa has recorded just three cases and no deaths, which has been typically low in Polynesia.

But medical authorities were forced to urgently return around 100,000 vaccines before they expire this month despite receiving 25,000 extra doses from New Zealand at the start of October.

Still about 50,000 Samoans – one in every four people – have been left waiting to be fully vaccinated.

The scenario became so dire a little more than a month ago that the nation went into lockdown for two days, as residents tied makeshift red flags in front of homes to indicate the desperate need of a first dose during door-to-door vaccinations.

Tonga has recently received more than 30,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine from New Zealand that have been designated for 12 to 17-year-old schoolchildren and pregnant women.

More than 50,000 people aged 18 and over have been vaccinated once out of 63,000 Tongans while about half of the adult population are fully vaccinated.

The government aims to vaccinate 70 per cent of the population by December before the kingdom opens up to visitors.

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