COVID-19 vaccines might arrive in Tonga in April

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The arrival of the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines to Tonga from COVAX “is tentative for next month as per current plans”, confirmed Ministry of Health Acting CEO, Dr Reynold ‘Ofanoa today.

“We are also mindful of the logistical challenges currently experienced during the current COVID-19 pandemic that may alter initial plans,” he said.

Tonga has submitted its National Deployment and Vaccination Plan to COVAX (the COVID vaccine facility), which is a requirement before COVID-19 vaccines are released.

However, Dr ‘Ofanoa said that the plan is “a living document that will be updated accordingly through time when it is justifiable to do so”.

Countries expected to prepare for rollout

Meanwhile, COVAX, in its initial distribution forecast in February, indicated that Tonga would receive 43,200 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has been approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The number of doses is a guide only for the country to prepare for the rollout of the vaccine.

Eleven South Pacific countries are also included in its first distribution forecast.

Currently, demand for COVID-19 vaccines far exceeds supply worldwide.

Earlier this month, Fiji was the first Pacific Island country to receive the COVID-19 vaccine from COVAX.

While Fiji was listed initially to receive 100,800 doses of the vaccine, COVAX sent 12,000 doses in its first round of distribution.

Fijivillage reported today that a second shipment of the vaccines from COVAX could arrive in Fiji in April or May.

COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and WHO. It aims to accelerate the development manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access to every country in the world.

WHO reports new COVID-19 cases continued to rise globally

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported yesterday March 17, that in the past week new cases of COVID-19 continued to rise globally, increasing by 10% in the past week to over 3 million new reported cases. Cases have been increasing for the past three weeks.

“This week, the Americas and Europe continue to account for over 80% of new cases and new deaths, with rises in new cases seen in all regions apart from Africa, where they remained the same as last week.”

New deaths on the other hand continue to decline and are now under 60,000 per week, globally.

This week, although new deaths declined globally, they rose in two WHO regions; the Eastern Mediterranean (by 7%) and the Western Pacific (by 14%),” WHO stated.

The WHO Western Pacific region covers 37 countries, extending from the Mongolian steppes in central Asia, east to the Pitcairn Islands in the Pacific Ocean and south to New Zealand. It includes countries big (such as China, with 1.4 billion people) and small (such as Niue, home to just 1000 people).

Source : Matangi Tonga Online, 18th March 2021

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