Around 7,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, donated by the Japanese Government via COVAX, arrived in Tonga this afternoon, Tuesday 14 December.
The extra doses will support Tonga’s COVID-19 vaccine roll-out program, with the Ministry of Health aiming to inoculate 70% of the total population before repatriation from high risk countries can begin.
Japanese Ambassador HE Mr Kensaku Munenaga handed over the vaccines to the Minister for Health Hon Dr ‘Amelia Tu’ipulotu at Fua’amotu International Airport.
“I hope today’s vaccines could help accelerate the on-going inoculation and that we could make the Kingdom well prepared before it [Covid-19] comes,” said HE Mr Munenaga.
Hon. Dr ‘Amelia Tu’ipulotu was appreciative of Japan’s assistance to “assure better protection for the people of Tonga”.
She also thanked the Government of Tonga for the support and the critical delivery for the people of Tonga.
Despite very strict border restrictions, Tonga recorded its first case of COVID-19 in October.
Mr Munenaga said we must face up to the reality that outside of Tonga, people are living with COVID-19, and that the world of “with Corona” will come here sooner or later.
“Many countries, including even New Zealand, have changed their policy from zero-Corona to with-Corona. By the grace of God Almighty, Tonga is still COVID-free. It is great. The Kingdom of Tonga is really blessed by God.”
However, we cannot, we should not keep closing our border forever, he said.
“Not only from economic and political points of view, but also from the viewpoint of family relations, which Tongan people value very much, we will have to reconsider our strict border restrictions soon.”
“Only with a change of the policy, Tongans who have been stuck outside of the Kingdom can meet their families here in Tonga.”
“In this regard, I sincerely hope that by today’s donation, Japan can contribute to the accomplishment of Tonga’s vaccination target, which is the precondition for the review of our border restrictions,” he said.
The vaccine donation is Japan’s second to Tonga, with 26,800 doses provided in August this year.
According to HE Munenaga, the Japanese Government is planning to send a third donation to Tonga early next year "so that we could finalize our full-vaccination plan".