Papua New Guinea has opened up its immunization program to anyone over the age of 18 as they try to overcome high levels of reluctance.

Health officials fear the country is particularly vulnerable to the Delta variant due to its low levels of vaccination.

Papua New Guinea’s immunization program is getting off to a slow start – so far just under 55,000 people have received a vaccine.

PNG saw a worrying increase in the number of cases from March to May and encountered logistical challenges in making immunization programs work across the country.

He also faces high levels of reluctance, which authorities attribute largely to disinformation and social media.

In order to encourage its workers to get vaccinated, the management of the Grand Papua Hotel in Port Moresby organized continuing education sessions.

They also offered food vouchers worth 100 kinas ($ 40) to staff who receive the jab.

David Toua of Steamships Trading Company, owner of the Grand Papua, said the plan reflected “how important we think vaccination is.”

“It’s an added incentive and at the end of the day, what family doesn’t want $ 100 worth of food on the table, so it’s something that’s for the good of the family, he said.

“They get a bonus for doing the right thing, so everyone wins, I guess.”

Nora Maino works at the Grand Papua Hotel and has been vaccinated.

“My parents live with me.

So far, nearly 40% of staff have signed up, and Ms Maino said more of her colleagues have just signed up to participate next week.

PNG uses doses of AstraZeneca donated by Australia and New Zealand as part of the global COVAX facility for its deployment.

The Chinese government has also just provided 200,000 doses of its Sinovac vaccine, but it is initially only used for Chinese citizens in the country.

Australian lab offered to help with testing

There is also growing concern that more than 70,000 donated vaccines may expire this month before they can be used.

There are plans to launch mobile clinics, review government-backed incentives, and potentially move stocks across the country to try and use them before they’re destroyed.

“I hope that with these strategies, fingers crossed, we should make full use of these vaccines before the expiration date,” said Dr Daoni Essorom, PNG COVID-19 incident manager.

Hospitalization rates have dropped significantly in PNG in recent weeks, but it’s unclear exactly what’s going on due to low testing rates and a limited capacity to test samples in the country.

A drive-thru test clinic in Port Moresby run by St John Ambulance was completely empty when the ABC visited this week.

“In June, we only tested 26 people in 18 cars, or about one or two a day, on opening days,” said Jacquie Hennessy of St John PNG.

“Compared to April, May, we were testing almost a thousand a month – and now we’re down to 26.”

St John has reduced its opening hours to two days a week due to lower demand.

“This is incredibly concerning, with low vaccination rates and poor testing, we really don’t have a picture of what exactly COVID is doing at PNG right now.”

The country’s capacity to test samples for COVID-19 is set to be significantly boosted, thanks to a multi-million dollar donation from an Australian foundation.

The Minderoo Foundation sent a laboratory capable of handling 3,000 tests per day.

“So this is a very significant increase in what Papua New Guinea is able to do right now,” said Steve Burnell of the Minderoo Foundation.

The president of the foundation, mining tycoon Andrew Forrest, visited PNG last year to examine possible hydroelectric projects in the country.

Border protection measures intensified to prevent the Delta variant from entering

International arrivals to Papua New Guinea will now need to be fully vaccinated and will need to be quarantined for 21 days upon arrival.

The new measures come as the government tries to keep the Delta strain out of the country. So far, the government claims that there is no evidence of the Delta variant in PNG.

Health officials had considered banning all international flights, but withdrew from the decision.

Rules have also been introduced that will allow fully vaccinated people to fly unrestricted within the country.

Unvaccinated people are only allowed to fly for specific reasons, including essential work, schooling, an emergency, or to return home.

The country’s police commissioner and pandemic response chief David Manning said the new strict measures on international arrivals were needed.

“Papua New Guinea presents a real risk due to the strong reluctance to vaccinate which exposes the majority of our population to the virus and leaves us without many options,” said Mr Manning.

Mr Manning reiterated his calls for vaccination of citizens.

He said being vaccinated would provide some level of protection against this highly contagious variant, but people should still continue to wear face masks, maintain social distancing, use hand sanitizers or wash their hands. regularly and avoid crowds.

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