Fijians urged to vaccinate as Moderna arrives

By RNZ.co.nz and is republished with permission

Fijians above 60 years of age and pregnant women have been encouraged to get the Moderna vaccine for protection against Covid-19.

The government plea comes amid record daily infections and deaths recorded so far – over 14,000 active cases are in isolation with more than 100 deaths reported.

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.. Photo: Supplied/US Embassy, Suva

Fiji’s Health Ministry says it will begin administering the Moderna vaccine soon after more than 150,000 doses of the vaccine arrived in Fiji last weekend through the US government and the COVAX Facility.

The shipment is part of the 80 million doses of vaccine that President Joe Biden committed from the US vaccine supply to support global needs.

US Embassy in Suva Chargé d’Affaires Tony Gruebel said that was due to the “ingenuity of American scientists and the resilience and commitment of the American people to help others”.

Gruebel said the vaccine donation followed a May response by Washington to Fiji’s request for critical assistance to confront the evolving Covid-19 crisis in the Pacific island nation.

“In partnership with UNICEF, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) redirected funding to procure vital infection prevention and control items for Fiji’s Ministry of Health.

“The vaccines also follow the US donation of 42 freezers to provide storage space for large quantities of the vaccine as well as freezer packs, which will allow for the easy transportation to inoculation sites.”

Gruebel said the donation was funded by the US Indo-Pacific Command’s Overseas Humanitarian, Disaster and Civic Aid program.

In addition, Gruebel also launched a new $US1.5 million partnership between USAID and UNICEF to support countries in the Pacific including Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Nauru, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), the Marshall Islands and Fiji to combat Covid-19.

The USAID assistance would also focus on readiness, delivery, and post-delivery monitoring of life-saving Covid-19 vaccines, as well as support effective public messaging around vaccinations, he said.

Fiji’s Health Minister Ifereimi Waqainabete thanked the US government and urged Fijians with chronic lung disease, significant cardiac disease, severe obesity, diabetes, liver disease and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections to get the Moderna vaccine.

Waqainabete said unlike with the AstraZeneca vaccine, pregnant women could now get the Moderna vaccine to protect themselves against the risk of severe illness, hospitalisation and other consequences of Covid-19.

“The Moderna Covid-19 vaccine will also be made available to all pregnant women across Fiji who can protect themselves from severe Covid-19 illness by getting vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine.

“Vaccination venues for the Moderna vaccine will be published on the Fijian Government, the Ministry of Health Facebook pages and in the local media.”

The ministry will begin administering Moderna to pregnant women employed in the civil service before 1 August, this year, Waqainabete said.

The government recently issued a directive to all workers to vaccinate against Covid-19 by 1 November or face losing their jobs.

The minister said pregnant women could continue to go to work while they waited to receive the Moderna vaccine.

“An individual requires two doses of the Moderna vaccine for full protection, with the second dose to be administered 28 days after the first dose.

“The ministry recommends people to receive the same type of Covid-19 vaccine for both first and second doses, without mixing them.

“This means a person who received the Moderna vaccine as first dose should get the same Moderna for the second dose and the same applies to the AstraZeneca vaccine.”

The Covid-19 Drive-Through Vaccination Centre in Suva.
The Covid-19 Drive-Through Vaccination Centre in Suva. Photo: Facebook/Fiji govt

The minister said the new vaccine would boost the government’s ongoing vaccination efforts and would allow eligible individuals, 18 years and older, including pregnant women to get vaccinated.

“While the AstraZeneca vaccine also protects pregnant mothers from severe illness, hospitalisation and other consequences of Covid-19, the Moderna vaccine will allow earlier immunity protection for women, as the second dose is administered after 28 days.

“The Moderna Covid-19 vaccine came into the country with the support of the United States under the COVAX Facility vaccine share mechanism – a world-wide initiative aimed at fair access to Covid vaccines directed by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, CEPI, WHO and UNICEF.

“The Moderna vaccines are a timely boost to Fiji’s Covid-19 vaccination campaign.”

Waqainabete urged pregnant women to get vaccinated without delay including those above 60 years of age with severe co-morbidities such as chronic lung disease, significant cardiac disease, severe obesity, diabetes, liver disease and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections who are also among those prioritised to receive the Moderna vaccine within the Suva-Nausori Covid-19 containment corridor.

The Health Ministry said a total of 401,404 Fijians or 68.4 percent of the target population have received their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, while 80,895 people (13.8 percent) have received both jabs.

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