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COVID-19 vaccine trials will be costly, says PNG Institute of Medical Research director Pomat
04:03 am GMT+12, 06/04/2021, Papua New Guinea

Clinical trials for the AstraZeneca vaccine in Papua New Guinea will be costly and time-consuming, PNG Institute of Medical Research (PNGIMR) director Professor William Pomat says.
Pomat revealed this when responding to Eastern Highlands nurses’ rejection of AstraZeneca roll-out unless tested and approved by PNGIMR.
“By the time the results of any clinical trials are available, many will be infected and also die,” he said.
“Our health workers will be infected and our health system will collapse.
“It will be a costly and lengthy exercise.
“It is, therefore, unwise for PNG to conduct another trial while lives continue to be at risk.”
Pomat said PNGIMR, the Health Department and provincial health authorities could conduct research alongside the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine to find out how effective it was.
“They can determine how effective is the vaccine in preventing infections and what reactions people are getting after receiving the vaccine,” he said.
“I am sure the Government already has plans to conduct these studies as it has appointed International SOS to implement the roll-out in Port Moresby and perhaps nationwide.”
International SOS is a health and security services firm which counts nearly two-thirds of the Fortune Global 500 companies as clients and takes about four million assistance calls annually.
Nurses serving in Eastern Highlands’ eight districts met last Wednesday and unanimously agreed not to accept the AstraZeneca vaccines unless tested and confirmed by the PNGIMR as safe for use.
Eastern Highlands Nurses Union president Nocksy Gunure said that they wanted more testing and confirmation by the PNGIMR before declaring it safe for vaccination.
Gunure said health workers had no knowledge of the AstraZeneca vaccine and need more awareness.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister James Marape has urged the Governors to step up efforts in addressing and containing the recent upsurge in the Covid-19 infections in the country.
Marape said provincial admirations needed to ensure that the Covid-19 measures were being strictly enforced and complied with in all districts.
He made the call last week when hosting the first series of monthly governors’ meetings to address the heightened Covid-19 situation.
The presentation included an update on the budget and expenditure nationwide, statistics of the Covid-19 cases in the provinces including the National Capital District (NCD), lack of capacity and logistics in provincial and district hospitals and most importantly, lack of fully kitted intensive care beds for citizens who have contracted the virus.
Marape said the Government was working to mobilise additional vaccines.
“I have already dispatched letter and I am thankful WHO (World Health Organisation) and Department of Foreign Affairs partners are sensitive to the need for additional vaccines and we are working to mobilise additional vaccines,” he said.
“When more supply of vaccines come, vaccines must go out to those who need it, those who want vaccines, especially in the first instance – all our health workers they need to be vaccinated.”
Marape said the Health Department was working on a programme to ensure that the 8,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from Australia were mobilised firstly for health workers.
“Our health workers must identify their candidates who need this vaccine and the Health Department will find a way to send the vaccines out of Port Moresby to those PHAs and the frontline workers,” he said.
“At least 6,000 to 7,000 must go out to the health workers.
“The other 1,000 or so will be kept for those who are essential workers who keep the economy running.”
Marape said the provincial control centres were subsidiaries of the National Control Centre which should have been set up last year and the key persons in it were the provincial police commanders, provincial administrators and PHA chief executive officers (CEO).
He said the PHA CEOs presents to the provincial government what needed to be done in terms of additional resources or policing of strategies and Waigani controlled the standards and vaccines in this response.
There are only 200 intensive care beds nationwide which is not enough to cater for the increase.
“I have tasked Health secretary Dr Osborne Liko and National Control Centre (NCC) Controller David Manning to address the acute shortage of beds and other related medical needs and accessories as a matter of urgency.”
Marape appealed for collective and concerted efforts by all governors through their respective health authorities to provide a cost analysis on their needs to enable the NCC to disburse funds and report accordingly.

He emphasised on the need for the governors to remind their people of the new containment and isolation strategy to strictly enforce and comply with the Niupela Pasin.


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