Speech by the UN Resident Coordinator, Mr Gianluca Rampolla at the Occasion of the Handover of COVID-19 Vaccines from the COVAX Facility
UN Resident Coordinator Gianluca Rampolla welcomed the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines from the COVAX Facility with partners and government in Port Moresby.
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is with great joy that I join the Government of Papua New Guinea and our development partners in welcoming the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines from the COVAX Facility. This shipment of 132,000 doses is the largest provision of vaccines to PNG so far and marks the first of several vaccine allotments from COVAX: a joint initiative of Gavi - the Vaccine Alliance, WHO, and UNICEF to ensure equitable distribution of COVID vaccines to developing countries.
With this first shipment of vaccine, we will support the Government in vaccinating the priority health and frontline workers across provinces, including those most at risk of developing serious complications from COVID-19.
Vaccination of these priority groups has already begun following a shipment of 8,000 vaccines from Australia in March. By the end of this year, we are hopeful that at least 20% of Papua New Guineans are vaccinated and towards this, WHO and UNICEF will, on behalf of the United Nations, continue to support the Government in ensuring the timely arrival of subsequent COVAX shipments.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen
Let me take the opportunity at this point to thank the European Union and the Governments of Australia, Japan, Republic of Korea, France, New Zealand, the Philippines, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, for your contributions to COVAX. With your support and that of other donors, COVAX has already delivered more than 38 million life-saving vaccines to over 100 countries.
In February, in a briefing to the UN Security Council, the Secretary-General stated that “vaccine equity is the biggest moral test before the global community.”
COVID-19 is a global challenge that requires effective multilateralism and international cooperation to be addressed: we will only be safe when everybody is safe.
I appeal to partners to provide continued support to COVAX in ensuring that vaccines are made available in a timely and equitable manner. In Papua New Guinea, we have an opportunity to reap the benefits of the vaccines early on and at the same time to scale up investments to strengthen the national health system.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Going forward, vaccines alone will not be enough to end this pandemic: implementation of non-pharmaceutical interventions need to continue.
I cannot stress more the important role risk communications and community engagement plays in breaking the chains of transmission and mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In general, people know about COVID-19 and the preventive measures necessary. However, a pandemic fatigue has set in and is increasing: people are becoming complacent. Investments in coordinated and participatory approaches to how we engage communities around COVID-19 and tackling misinformation will be essential in controlling the virus and mitigating its impacts.
Let me also highlight the communications challenges around the vaccines: ranging from hesitancy to deliberate anti-vax misinformation. Papua New Guineans will have a choice – and it is entirely their choice – whether they will receive this vaccine. Strengthened support for accurate information on this vaccine will be critical to ensuring that decision is based on facts, not fear.
As reiterated in statements by WHO’s Global Advisory Committee as well as the European Medicines Agency on Wednesday 7th April 2021, based on risk-benefit ratio, the AZ vaccine remains an important public health tool against the COVID-19 pandemic and is effective at preventing severe cases, hospitalization and death.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to thank our UN lead agencies, WHO and UNICEF, in the response to COVID-19 for their outstanding contribution in supporting the Government of PNG with vaccine roll out and the overall response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. Specifically, on vaccine preparation and rollout I would like to commend:
- Supporting the NDOH on the establishment of National technical working groups for COVID-19 vaccination roll out in PNG;
- Supporting provinces for the development of microplanning for the roll out of COVID-19 vaccination;
- Assisting the department to revitalize the national Adverse Effects Following Immunization committee and establishment of sub-national AEFI committee to ensure proper reporting and investigation done for immunization safety at all levels;
- Supporting data management and analysis to monitor implementation of the vaccine rollout.
- Leading the procurement and supply of COVID-19 vaccine doses provided by the COVAX facility;
- Supporting vital cold chain management which has enabled the country to achieve adequate cold chain storage capacities to store the vaccines across the country;
- The ongoing logistics work in supporting the nationwide distribution of the COVID 19 vaccines, its stock management, cold chain and waste management.
Both agencies are providing expert technical support to this vaccination roll out, training health workers on vaccination deployment, and driving the communication and community engagement work to generate awareness, vaccine confidence and demand.
I am proud of the support that the UN country team has provided, in cooperation with our development partners, since the start of the pandemic in February 2020, to assist the Government in emergency and humanitarian coordination and response, to address the health and secondary impacts of COVID-19.
Let me conclude by saying that COVID-19 is far from over, and clearly there is more to do. But indeed, together through partnership and friendship, we can overcome this massive challenge.
Thank you tru!