Solomon Islands received 100,620 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines yesterday from the United States Government through the COVAX Facility – a partnership co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the World Health Organization (WHO), with UNICEF as the key delivery partner.
These latest donations from the American people will contribute towards fully vaccinating 50,310 people, especially pregnant women and children aged 12 to 18 in Solomon Islands, in line with the National Deployment and Vaccination Plan.
These vaccines were handed over to the Government in an official ceremony held at the Henderson International Airport.
In attendance at the handover ceremony were the Minister of Health and Medical Services, Dr Culwick Togamana, leading the government team including the Permanent Secretaries of the Ministry of Health and Medical Services, Pauline McNeil, and Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development, Dr. Franco Rodie, as well as senior executives of the Ministry of Health and Medical Services.
In attendance were also the Director of the United States Embassy Office in Solomon Islands, Russell Comeau, Chief of UNICEF Pacific’s Solomon Islands Field Office, Dr. Zelalem Taffesse, and WHO Country Representative to Solomon Islands, Dr. Sevil Huseynova.
Delivering keynote address at the event, Togamana expressed sincere thanks to the government and people of the United States of America.
“It is a tremendous pleasure filled with thanks to receive the 100 thousand and 620 doses of Pfizer vaccines on behalf of our children 12-18 years of age and pregnant mothers,” he said.
“We now have the opportunity to increase vaccination coverage to these groups of people that will greatly contribute towards the overall protection of our people from severe sickness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19,” Togamana added.
“I understand that 2 billion USD has been provided to the COVAX Facility and another 2 billion scheduled for 2022 by the U.S. government.
“The support, as we have seen, has already contributed significantly towards equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines across the globe – more importantly to least developed and developing countries and Solomon Islands joins these groups of countries as beneficiaries to this wonderful support.”
The minister also thanked the support of UNICEF for all the preparatory work to receive the Pfizer vaccines from shipment and installation of ultra-cold chain equipment at the National Medical Store including facilitation of necessary trainings.
He also praised the joint partnership of health and education to roll out the vaccines in schools, initially in Honiara and eventually to the provinces.
Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development, Dr Franco Rodie, also echoed similar sentiments of thanks to the U.S. government for the support with the Pfizer vaccines.
“As we have seen, COVID-19 affects and kills indiscriminately, and children are not immune to the effects of the virus,” Rodie said.
“These vaccines offer us a wonderful opportunity to preserve the health and lives of our children thus can continue with their education and fulfill the life’s goal,” he added.
“And a special thank you to our UN partners and Ministry of Health colleagues who have helped ensure this delivery was a success,” said Russell Comeau, Director, U.S. Embassy Office in Solomon Islands.
“These vaccines are an important step in not only protecting the health of Solomon Islanders, but also in supporting communities as they work to build back better from the many challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“These vaccines also represent the United States’ ambition to deepen our friendship with the people of Solomon Islands.
“We thank the United States Government for supporting our joint efforts in combatting the ongoing COVID-19 threats faced by children in the Pacific region,” said UNICEF Pacific Representative, Jonathan Veitch.
“We also acknowledge the Solomon Island Government’s strong efforts in their preparedness and response plans to keep communities safe and protected.
“UNICEF, together with our partners, will continue to support the government during this global pandemic.”
WHO Country Representative to Solomon Islands, Dr. Sevil Huseynova, thanked the U.S. government for channeling their support through COVAX Facility, which will greatly ensure equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines across the globe.
“No one is safe until everyone is safe and this means that every single person needs to be vaccinated so that we are all safe.
“This batch of Pfizer vaccines will greatly enable Solomon Islands to achieve increased coverage to various groups who otherwise would not be able to get vaccinated, the children 12-18 years old and pregnant mothers.
“WHO advocates and supports the overall COVID-19 vaccine roll out especially for those in high risk groups that require prioritization and we are pleased to have supported all necessary preparations to receive the Pfizer vaccines alongside UNICEF.
“We will continue to work closely with the government for effective and efficient roll out of the Pfizer vaccines to our children and pregnant mothers,” said Dr Huseynova.
As vaccines are now rolling out around the world, they should complement, and not replace, proven public health measures.
Solomon Islands, like other countries, will continue to apply tried-and-tested measures to successfully prevent and control transmission, such as physical distancing, masks, ventilation and hand hygiene, alongside robust programmes to test, trace, isolate and treat.
COVAX is the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator.
The ACT Accelerator is a ground-breaking global collaboration to boost the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.
Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access to every country in the world.
The United States remains the largest contributor to COVAX, providing $4 billion to support the global effort to provide safe and effective vaccines.
The United States recently reached the major milestone of 200 million doses of vaccines donated globally through the COVAX facility, more than 800,000 of which were donated to the Pacific Islands.