BY BARNABAS MANEBONA
SOLOMON Islands is among the countries that will benefit from a new Coronavirus (Covid-19) Vaccination initiative called the ‘COVAX Facility’.
Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare in his first 2021 ‘National Address’ yesterday updating on ‘Vaccines’ said his government submitted the country’s request to GAVI – the Global Alliance on Vaccines and Immunisation, which is the global health agency that co-leads the COVAX Facility on December 7, 2020.
Through the ‘COVAX facility’, participating eligible countries such as Solomon Islands will receive an initial Covid-19 vaccine to cover 20 percent of its population free. Countries are then able to co-finance the remaining doses with GAVI.
Mr Sogavare said his government has agreed to increase the vaccine coverage through the COVAX Facility to ‘50 percent’ of the population through a co-financing arrangement.
“We will secure the balance of the other 50% of the population through bilateral and other multi-lateral arrangements with our development partners,” said Sogavare.
“Fellow citizens, in-order to qualify under the COVAX Facility, the government has established a high-level National Coordinating Committee required for the COVAX Facility. It is jointly chaired by the Permanent Secretaries of Health and Finance to drive the development and deployment of a COVID-19 vaccination plan in Solomon Islands.
“The National Coordinating Committee is supported by a Technical Working Group for COVAX which also co-chaired by the Ministries of Health and Finance with membership including our development partners – namely Australia, New Zealand, Peoples Republic of China, WHO, UNICEF, and the World Bank.
“Fellow citizens, I am happy to inform you that the Technical Working Group has developed the ‘Draft National Deployment and Vaccination Plan for COVID-19 Vaccines’ which will be further deliberated by the national coordinating committee and the oversight committee before presentation to my Cabinet for approval. We anticipate receiving this plan by the end of January 2021.
“The Technical working group is currently reviewing available scientific information on the leading vaccines that have been certified by WHO, or used by countries under Emergency Use Authorisation, or are currently in Phase-3 development, including those that are likely to come through the COVAX Facility.
“Based on their assessment the working group will recommend which vaccines Solomon Islands might consider for its implementation. We also anticipate receiving this recommendation by the end of January 2021.
“Fellow citizens, we have also received advice that the COVAX Facility is planning to deploy enough doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to cover 0.25% of the population of its eligible countries in the first quarter of 2021. For Solomon Islands this equates to approximately 1,700 people.
“The government will be submitting its proposal to secure this allocation by the closing date of 18 January [next week Monday] 2021.
“We anticipate a decision on the approval of vaccines to be conveyed to us by end of January with a likely deployment date for the first batch of vaccines in February or March 2021.
“The technical working group and national coordinating committee are finalising the specific execution plan for the first 1,700 vaccines to be included in our proposal to be submitted on 18th January 2021.”
Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare assure that work to benefit fully from Covid-19 vaccines is on track as the country look forward to receiving the first doses of vaccines to cover 0.25% of its population in the next couple of months.
“While we await the advice from our technical working group and the national coordinating committee on the mass roll out of COVID-19 vaccines in the country, it is my hope that we will be able to vaccinate the whole of our population by the end of 2021,” said Sogavare.
On ‘health update’, the number of Covid-19 cases registered in Solomon Islands remains at 17.