Partnerships, cooperation’s and collaborations across sectors and together with beneficiaries of health initiatives and services continues to produce exceptional results in which the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) is tremendously grateful toward.
Last week a joint team comprising of border security officials, immigration and biosecurity team with two (2) representatives from the Australian High Commission was deployed to the country’s eastern border as part of borderline security and monitoring. Health seized the opportunity to join the team and extended the travel route to Tikopia and Anuta for COVID-19 vaccination roll out. Since the start of COVID-19 vaccination roll out, this was the first time a vaccination team have reached the two islands.
Tikopia and Anuta are both remote islands in Temotu Province that are often difficult to reach as there is no airstrip and reaching these remote islands by outboard motor from the provincial capital, Lata is simply impossible due to the vast distance. Shipping services to these islands are also not consistent, with the last commercial shipping service making rounds to the islands in June this year. As such, livelihood is very much agricultural based.
On Saturday 23 October, the team arrived at Tikopia, where they split into two sub teams, team 1, led by Dr Paul and team 2 by Dr Rakei. The chiefs took the initiative to take the COVID-19 vaccine jab first in front of their community members followed by all boys and girls, men and women, elderlies and those with underlying health conditions. Vaccination in Tikopia was carried out till night to also ensure students over 18 years who were sitting their exams late in the evening can also get their jabs. 421 people were vaccinated with first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine in Tikopia by the end of the day.
The team headed to Anuta Island at 0100hrs on Sunday morning and reached the island at daybreak. Anutans were attending church mass that morning. After prayers at 9am, light refreshments were served and villagers gathered for a brief awareness, which was well supported by John Fenua (a young community leader from Anuta who was part pf the team from Lata). He was instruct mental in mobilizing people to get their first vaccination dose. By the end of vaccination in Anuta, total of 115 people were vaccinated.
With the vaccination roll out in both the islands, around 98 percent 1st dose vaccination coverage for Tikopia and 100 percent for Anuta Island.
With the successful integrated mission to Tikopia and Anuta and 98 to 100 percent vaccination coverage for 1st dose, Health Permanent Secretary Mrs. Pauline McNeil expressed sincere acknowledgement to the people there.
“It is such a wonderful news for us to learn of such high coverage with the 1st dose. Thank you to all the chiefs, elders and the rest of community leaders including every single person whom have come forward to get their 1st vaccination jab done. Thank you as well to RSIPF for this wonderful opportunity to reach our people in these remote islands with COVID-19 vaccines and to our provincial health team in Temotu Province for leading the roll out”.
“Understandably, the population of these two communities is relatively much low but the support rendered to our team and the positive response without any hesitation by the communities to get vaccinated is worthy of praise”, stated Mrs. McNeil.
She also added that the success of the mission is also due to effective community engagement with clear messaging and management of the vaccination process, which derived quite a lot of good lessons learnt which can be replicated in other areas. “Overall sincere thank you to our leaders and people in Tikopia and Anuta islands, your high vaccination coverage in just one day will help protect your people from severe sickness from COVID-19, hospitalization and death included.
In the meantime, the Ministry of Health continues to urge Community and Church Leaders who have influence to tell communities to get vaccinated, to stand up for what is right because as leaders you can save lives and you can make a difference.