COVID-19 vaccine on meeting agenda

The Government will meet with development partners this week to discuss how Samoa can access a COVID-19 vaccine.

The interim Chair of the National Emergency Operations Centre (N.E.O.C.), Agafili Shem Leo, confirmed the talks in an email response to the Samoa Observer last Friday.

"Talks will be held next week (this week) with our development partners on this matter," said Agafili in an email, after he was asked what were the Government’s plans in relation to Samoa accessing a vaccine.

The Government has placed the country under Alert Level 1 after two Samoans, who repatriated to Samoa on November 13, tested both negative and positive and were later assessed to be historical positive cases of COVID-19 and were not contagious.

Alert Level 1 is when Samoa has between one to six cases in managed isolation, which is assessed to be a low risk situation for the country. 

The meeting between the Government and the development partners scheduled for this week comes as the United Kingdom goes into the second week of a mass vaccination programme targeting elderlies aged over 80 as well as health frontline workers.

Australia has assured Pacific nations including Samoa that it is committed to providing support to give them access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.

In a joint statement last month signed by federal ministers Marise Payne [foreign affairs and women], Greg Hunt [health] and Alex Hawke [defence, international development and Pacific] the Australian government assured its neighbours of their support.

The statement stated that the Indo-Pacific region is the engine of the new global economy, consequently ensuring it can recover quickly will stimulate economic activity and restore jobs at home and abroad. 

"The Australian Government is committed to supporting access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines for the Pacific and Southeast Asia, as part of a shared recovery for our region from the pandemic.  This will also contribute to Australia’s own health security and economic recovery," the statement reads.

"We are securing access to COVID-19 vaccines for Australia, the Pacific and Southeast Asia through a range of advance purchase agreements with manufacturers and through participation in the multilateral COVAX Facility.

"Through a regional vaccine access and health security initiative, the Australian Government will provide a range of support including supplying safe and effective vaccine doses and delivering technical support to our regional partners. 

“Australia will assist with assessment of vaccine safety, efficacy and quality by national regulatory authorities, informed by WHO [World Health Organisation] advice.”

The Australian government added that it is committing AU$500 million over three years to the COVID-19 vaccine effort.

When the Samoa Observer contacted the Chinese Embassy for comment on the possibility of China supplying Samoa with a COVID-19 vaccine, the embassy highlighted in a emailed response that on November 30 this year, China’s Second Vice Minister convened a virtual meeting on COVID-19 with Pacific Island nations to discuss the issue.

“Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang informed Pacific Island Countries of China's recommendations of enhancing cooperation with island countries in the fields of vaccine supply, Joint COVID-19 Response Fund, debt service suspension, e-commerce, personnel training and local cooperation in the next stage,” read the statement from the Embassy.

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