NOOSA – Papua New Guinea began the rollout of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine on Tuesday, with Forests Minister Walter Schnaubelt receiving the first official jab.
China supplied PNG with 200, 000 doses in late June, with 2,500 doses already given to Chinese nationals in the country as a confidence builder.
Ambassador to PNG, Zeng Fanhua, said China has provided more than 500 million vaccine doses to over 100 countries and had so far administered more than 1.38 billion doses in China.
Clinical trials run by the state-owned company Sinopharm shows it has an efficacy rate of 79% and a subsequent assessment released in May by the World Health Organisation confirmed a similar efficacy of 78% after two injections three weeks apart.
By comparison, the well-regarded medical journal Lancet reports that AstraZeneca has an efficacy of 81% with an interval of at least 12 weeks between doses and 55% with an interval of less than six weeks.
Speaking at Port Moresby General Hospital, Zeng said vaccination is the key to defeating the pandemic and the Chinese vaccines will help PNG protect its people's health and safety.
China will also continue to work with PNG to help it cope with the pandemic.
He called on PNG residents to get vaccinated, saying the more people get vaccinated the earlier they could be protected from the virus.
Forests Minister Schnaulbelt said he had decided to get vaccinated to show others that there is now an alternative vaccine that people in PNG can choose if they do not want AstraZeneca.
One of the women vaccinated, Marilyn Dave from Gulf Province, said she was happy to receive the vaccine because “we don't know what is coming.”
There are predictions in PNG that there will be a second wave of Covid and there is anxiety that variants, including the Delta virus, may cause havoc as it has in some parts of the world.
According to the PNG government, as of last Friday there had been 17,340 Covid cases in PNG and 179 deaths.
Hospital CEO Dr Charles Molumi says a team is now based at the Accident and Emergency Unit to give the Sinopharm vaccine to anybody who wants it.
It is for persons aged 18 years old and above and the dose interval is three weeks.
In the Pacific region, both Solomon Islands and Vanuatu have received Sinopharm vaccine ahead of PNG.
Sources: Xinhua | PNG Department of Health | The Lancet | World Health Organisation