By Johnny Blades, RNZ Pacific journalist
Anti-vax misinformation is throwing a spanner within the works for covid-19 vaccination programmes in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, with the prime ministers of each international locations firing warnings at these spreading it.
PNG Prime Minister James Marape issued a blunt assertion this week, saying his authorities had completed all the pieces doable to offer the vaccine throughout a time of world demand, and that if folks didn’t get themselves vaccinated after which felt sick or died, they solely had themselves in charge.
The tally of confirmed instances of vovid-19 in PNG has grown at 16,000 instances in 4 months, and virtually 17,000 folks have examined optimistic for the virus to this point. But the speed of infections has tapered off from the highs of March.
The federal government has declared the state of affairs beneath management, however is anxious to make use of its provide of AstraZeneca doses earlier than they expire. About 100,000 doses despatched by way of the COVAX programme facility should be used inside a month or they’ll go to waste.
A bit greater than 41,000 folks in PNG have now had the vaccine, largely important employees and about 7000 well being employees. However the figures are a drop within the bucket in comparison with the entire inhabitants of 9 million folks.
Professor Glen Mola, the top of obstetrics and gynaecology at Port Moresby Normal Hospital, mentioned the federal government may very well be extra vigorous in quelling misinformation from anti-vaxxers.
“It’s simply ridiculous that we spend a whole bunch of hours out of our valuable well being employee time countering the ridiculous conspiracy theories of some folks. They spend all their days on social media spreading all this worry,” he mentioned.
“The Controller has powers beneath the Nationwide Pandemic Act, to declare folks a menace to public security… and provides them a warning and lock them up in the event that they don’t heed the warning.”
This week 146,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, purchased by the NZ authorities, have been delivered to PNG. Picture: RNZ/PNG Division of HealthHesitancy, social media and antivaxxersMany of PNG’s nurses initially refused to get the vaccine when first supplied in late March and early April, asking for clear details about its security and efficacy.
A Port Moresby nurse (who requested to not be named) this week advised RNZ her colleagues had been working their approach by way of the details about the vaccine that had since been made out there to them, however she was not but satisfied about it.
“The frontliners usually are not nicely knowledgeable of all these issues, so most of us are nonetheless in suspense. However we’re simply attempting to learn round and search on-line, and see for ourselves what it’s.”
Professor Mola mentioned his staff of docs had all lined up for the jab, however extra work was wanted to be put into the marketing campaign to vaccinate as many well being employees as doable.
“They’ve had their first shot, and a few have had two photographs now — that’s the docs within the maternity aspect. And we’ve got not had a health care provider go down with covid since we began vaccinating.”
One outstanding anti-vaxxer in PNG with virtually 7000 Fb followers provides a number of day by day commentaries on what she described as a world undertaking to kill and maim hundreds of thousands.
Gladys Habu, a pharmacist and former Miss Solomon Islands, getting her second dose of covid-19. Picture: RNZ/Solomon Islands Ministry of Well being
The knowledge shared included “terrifying” reviews from an alternate UK media supply, denigration of organisations which assist the vaccine rollout in PNG, and questions equivalent to: “What number of occasions do we’ve got to inform these idiots who’ve allowed themselves to be injected with poison?”
Marape earlier warned residents in opposition to counting on info on Fb to information their method to vaccines.
The official loss of life toll from covid-19 in PNG is 164, however as with the entire confirmed instances, the true determine is more likely to be a lot larger, as testing for the virus and reporting of deaths have been restricted.
Well being employees function prominently amongst these in PNG confirmed to have caught the virus to this point, and systemic staffing shortages have been putting nice pressure on the employees who continued on the job.
The Port Moresby nurse spoken to by RNZ mentioned she believed there have been hospital employees contaminated with the virus who continued to work within the hospital.
“Perhaps they’re simply attempting to normalise the coronavirus like another ailments,” she mentioned.
Solomon Islands well being employees warnedIn Solomon Islands, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare spoke out in a nationwide deal with criticising a small group of well being employees who had promoted misinformation about covid-19 vaccine security and effectiveness.
He mentioned it was extraordinarily unhappy that the group had ignored proof that vaccines have been very important to interrupt the cycle of the pandemic, and as an alternative promoted deceptive info to the general public.
“Whereas I respect particular person factors of view, I cannot enable deliberate misinformation to scare those who want to defend themselves from covid-19.
“If such deliberate misinformation continues, these concerned can be held accountable in accordance with provisions of the related laws.”
Relying on demographicsProfessor Mola mentioned drily that the upshot was that PNG was counting on the pure safety in a youthful inhabitants to mitigate a number of the impacts of covid-19.
“Seventy 5 p.c of our inhabitants are beneath 30. And by and huge (amongst) under-30s just one out of 1000 will get severely unwell, and one out of 2000 dies. So we’re going to depend on the safety of youth.”
PNG Well being Minister Jelta Wong mentioned officers have been doing what they might to vaccinate the precedence teams, and whereas there have been ongoing “points” with reaching all healthworkers, the vaccinations have been now been prolonged to the aged.