The Health Ministry stresses that it will continue to administer the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines as the World Health Organization’s recommendations for the vaccine remains the same.
In a joint statement with the WHO, the Health Ministry says the WHO still recommends the AstraZeneca vaccines for individuals aged 18 years and over.
The Health Ministry stresses that to date, no confirmed cases of serious adverse events following immunization have been detected in Fiji despite 256,018 individuals being given one dose and 17990 individuals having had two doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
It says it is also important to remember that serious adverse events following immunization with the AstraZeneca vaccine remain rare events.
The joint statement says these vaccines have undergone the strictest safety and quality control trials and have reached the exacting standards of safety, purity, and effectiveness.
According to the Ministry, vaccination teams and clinicians have been well trained and have the resources on hand to treat individuals if such rare incidents do occur.
It further says COVID-19 vaccination remains one of our most effective measures in response to the current COVID-19 outbreak, significantly reducing a person’s risk of being infected, seriously ill, hospitalized or dying from COVID-19.
The Ministry and the WHO say the benefits of vaccines are clear.
They say as they see from other countries around the world, like Israel and the United States, who have vaccinated high proportions of their population that they have significantly reduced the number of hospitalized patients and slowed the spread of COVID-19.
This has also allowed them to relax some of their containment measures.
The WHO says Fiji, alongside 22 other countries globally, has successfully and safely administered over 2 billion doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to people aged 18 years and older.
The Health Ministry says mitigating the effects of the outbreak, including preventing more people from getting the severe disease and dying, will depend on our ability to get as many people vaccinated as possible, and as quickly as possible.
It adds given the current community transmission and COVID-19 variant, all unvaccinated individuals are at risk from the virus.
They add recent events in Fiji and many other countries have shown us how quickly outbreaks can spread despite intensive contact tracing and public health action.
The joint statement by the WHO and Health Ministry says they are aware that Australia recently announced changes to their age recommendations for their national distribution of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines following a rare but serious adverse event following immunization.
They say decisions such as this are being undertaken by national governments on a basis of various considerations, including weighing up the various risks.
The statement says this being what is the risk of a person being infected and becoming seriously ill from COVID-19, compared to the risk of suffering a rare, but severe side effect from the vaccine.
According to the WHO and the Health Ministry, it is clear that in the Fiji context, case numbers are escalating daily and the risk of being infected with COVID-19 and getting a severe disease and dying in Fiji is much higher than in Australia because we have community transmission in the Lami-Nausori area and in the West.
They stress that Australia’s decision does not change the approach for us here in Fiji
Stay tuned for the latest news on our radio stations