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Man receiving the COVID-19 vaccine

The rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in Papua New Guinea is vital because it limits the spread of the virus and saves lives

The Oil Search Foundation (OSF) is supporting the Gulf Provincial Health Authority (GPHA) to work with government and development partners to ensure Papua New Guineans have access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

In the Gulf Province, the vaccine roll-out of the first round of priority population groups is doing well.  In just five weeks the GPHA vaccination teams have achieved amazing results.

The first groups to be vaccinated were health staff, other essential workers and people considered vulnerable because of known underlying conditions (those at greatest risk).  The PHA vaccinated 2,445 people in this first round of vaccinations.  This was a 92% coverage of the total estimated population of 2,800 for these groups.  This now places Gulf, in the top four performing provinces on COVID vaccinations.

Gulf PHA COVID-19 vaccination campaign leader, Sr Ekaloa Mefaramu said, “I am glad to say that all 13 vaccination sites have successfully delivered the required doses to their target populations and this is because of the support from our partners OSF and Touch the Untouchables, who helped us reach communities.”

“People were sceptical at first. As soon as we began raising awareness amongst our specific target population, they began to understand the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We realized that effective advocacy with key messages and allowing quality time for questions and answers was vital to addressing vaccine hesitancy and refusal caused by a lot of misinformation and false rumours widely spread through social media.”

Two local community leaders in Baimuru and Lese Oalai had this to say, “At first, our people were adamant that they did not want the vaccines in our village, simply because we were not aware of the seriousness of COVID-19 and also how the vaccines can protect us if taken. After a listening to a team from the PHA educate us on its importance, most were happy to receive the vaccine, and quite surprisingly the allocated doses for us ran out with some sent to another site to receive their vaccine.

Chairman Gulf PHA Board, Gerea Aopi said,” We’re working to ensure that our teams provide safe and effective vaccines free to everyone in the province.  At the same time, we want to see that people are well informed and supported about the importance of being vaccinated. It’s our shared responsibility to keep each other keep safe.”