By Eleanor Gee
A delivery of 9,000 doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines, manufactured in Australia, arrived at Fua’amotu International Airport today, July 20.
Australian acting Head of Mission Nicholas Murphy said that Australia is proud to stand by the people of Tonga and the region to fight this global crisis.
"The arrival of the Australian-made vaccine in Tonga today is one of the key solutions to stem the social and economic impact of the pandemic. This is why Australia is so proud to be sharing its precious resources with Tonga. It is a scientifically sound thing to do, and it is the act of a good neighbour and friend."
He said this week's delivery to Tonga and others in the Pacific brings the total number of doses shared from Australia across the Pacific and Timor-Leste to almost 750,000.
"This is part of Australia's commitment to Tonga and the region to provide vital support in response to the COVID-19 pandemic."
Australia's sharing of vaccines with the Pacific and Timor-Leste is part of their broader partnership response to the virus.
In addition, through a regional Vaccine Access and Health Security Initiative, Australia has also committed AUD $2.3 million to purchase waste management equipment, including an environmentally friendlier Ecosteryl unit which does not produce greenhouse gases and toxic emissions like the traditional incincerator units.
This will be the first Ecosteryl unit in use in Tonga, and the second for the Pacific.
Through this initiative, technical advice from some of the world's leading immunisation experts via Australia's Therapeutic Goods Association and the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance is also available to support Tonga’s COVID-19 response and vaccine campaigns.
Australia has also supported the provision of GeneExpert and PCR testing equipment, PPE and the purchase of additional supplies through an additional AUD 1 million in COVID support through their Health Systems Support program.
This assistance comes on top of Australia's AUD$130 million contribution to the COVAX Facility's Advance Market Commitment, of which Tonga is a an eligible country. Through COVAX 48,000 vaccines have arrived in Tonga to date.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister Hon Dr Pohiva Tu'i'onetoa expressed Tonga's gratitude to the Government and people of Australia for the life changing vaccines.
Similarly, the Minister of Health Hon Dr 'Amelia Tu'ipulotu thanked Australia for making Tonga's dream a reality and to save the lives of our vulnerable population in Vava'u.
"This is a demonstration of Australia as a giant and superpower in the Pacific with the life changing vaccines given at a time of scarcity. We truly appreciated it," she said.
The Minister also acknowledged Australia's past and ongoing support to the Ministry of Health in their commitment to universal health coverage, by ensuring that no one is left behind.