WHILE COVID-19 vaccination is not mandatory, the Government intends to vaccinate every citizen over 18 years and older by the end of 2021.
Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said on Monday that since vaccine supplies are arriving in small quantities, the Government must be strategic and selective in identifying those that needs to be included in the first round of vaccination.
The Health Authorities and the Oversight Committee have advised that people most at risk from possible exposure to COVID-19 will be among the first to be vaccinated.
Those in the number one category are the front-liners and members of the frontline ministries, border agencies, SOEs and private sector entities whose work expose them to COVID-19 risks.
The focus in this category will initially be on those employees whose daily work exposes them to COVID-19 and others in the frontline ministries, agencies, SOEs and the private sector.
Those in the second category are people in communities along the western border in Choiseul, Western and Malaita Outer Island provinces.
The rapid rise in COVID-19 cases in PNG and in particular in Bougainville, makes vaccination along the western border a top priority.
COVID-19 vaccination along the border zone aims to cover everybody from 18 years and above. However, if vaccine supply is inadequate to cover everyone during this phase, the older age groups will be prioritized.
Those in the third category are people above 50 years of age who have some existing diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, chronic respiratory diseases including those with or had recovered from Tuberculosis and Asthma.
This category of people can be more seriously affected if they catch COVID-19 infection and must be given added protection.
In addition, national Leaders are included in the first rollout of the vaccines. This is to demonstrate to the public the level of confidence by leaders on COVID-19 vaccines. It also ensures additional protection is provided to leaders.
People under these categories will be advised of which vaccination stations they can go to for vaccinations when the vaccination programme rolls out begins.
At this stage, family members of front-liners are not included in the first round of COVID-19 vaccination due to the limited availability of vaccines available. They will all be covered in later shipment of vaccines.
The Ministry of Health is now developing a detailed vaccination rollout plan for the 24,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine. They will also develop similar implementation plans for the Sinopharm vaccine.
Training is conducted this week for vaccine administrators to administer the vaccine by early next week if it arrives this Friday.