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Tonga receives 24,000 doses of COVID19 vaccines through the COVAX facility Wednesday.
Dr Yutaro Setoya, officer in charge of the WHO Country liaison office in Tonga, welcomed the arrival of the vaccines at the airport, together with government officials and partners.
Tonga's Minister for Health, Associate Professor ‘Amelia Afuha’amango Tu’ipulotu, confirmed the arrival of the COVID-19 AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines in the kingdom.
Tonga is the third country in the Pacific to now receive the vaccines.
This was made possible through the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) facility. COVAX is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi and the World Health Organisation (WHO), alongside key delivery partner, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The facility offers a reliable supply of safe and efficient vaccines especially for Pacific countries like Tonga, who do not have direct access to manufacturers.
The Health Minister also confirmed that the rollout will take begin from Thursday 15 April 2021.
The rollout will be implemented according to priority groups as has been the practice, globally. This is due to limited vaccines available worldwide. The Ministry intends to first vaccinate frontline workers including staff from the Health Ministry, Tonga Police, His Majesty’s Armed Forces, Tonga Fire and Emergency Services, ports and airport staff. Frontliners work daily to ensure that Tonga is safe from COVID-19 and they must be well protected first.
A National Technical Working Group (TWG) has been established to manage all aspects of the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out. The Group is working closely with WHO and UNICEF to support health workers and all stakeholders involved in the rollout. This includes capacity building for frontline workers, coordinating resources for safe storage and vaccination capacity and providing timely information and knowledge to the public about the COVID-19 vaccine.
Tonga is not new to immunisation and in the past the Ministry has had great success with vaccine rollout due to communities cooperating well. It is anticipated that this rollout will be no different as the Ministry continues to work together with the public at for the national rollout.
The Ministry acknowledges the support from the WHO, the New Zealand and Australian governments, Japan, and partners including the Asian Development Bank (ADB), World Bank and European Union, in obtaining safe and efficient vaccines to protect the people of Tonga from COVID-19.
The Ministry of Health would like to also acknowledge the general public’s role in adhering to national rules and regulations. The Ministry continues to advise the general public that when the rollout occurs, please continue to observe the COVID-19 restrictions
SOURCE: WHO/TONGA GOVT/PACNEWS
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