Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Pandemic support for Pacific builds

The Government has announced a new package of COVID-19 support for Pacific Island countries.

Foreign Affairs Minister, Nanaia Mahuta said the support included delivery of vaccine boosters, COVID-19 anti-viral treatments, and a commitment to strengthening the capacity of health workers to respond to further pandemics.

“The impact of COVID-19 is still being felt around the world, including the Pacific. As we continue our re-connections this year we have a clear focus on supporting the social and economic resilience of our Pacific partners and their health priorities,” said Ms Mahuta.

Minister Mahuta made the announcement in the Cook Islands, during a visit to Rarotonga Hospital where she met frontline health workers involved in the COVID-19 response.

The package of support includes:

  • Additional funding of $3.8 million for the Polynesian Health Corridors programme for pandemic preparedness and response over the next year, to continue COVID-19 immunisation support, provide public health advice and help strengthen the health workforce.
  • A $1.1 million contribution to the World Health Organisation to increase access to COVID-19 therapeutics in the wider Pacific, with accompanying technical support;
  • Access to COVID-19 oral antivirals from Aotearoa New Zealand’s domestic supply for the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau. There will be accompanying guidance and support, facilitated by the Polynesian Health Corridors team, through clinical specialists and organisations in Aotearoa New Zealand;
  • Provision of second COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine boosters to the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau as requested.

The Polynesian Health Corridors (PHC) programme sees workers from Aotearoa New Zealand step up with public health advice, vaccine rollout support, and health workforce capability building in the Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu.

The PHC programme facilitated New Zealand’s donation of almost 44,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to the Cook Islands. There was also support from clinicians who travelled to the islands to backfill the roles of local health workers during the vaccination rollout.

“Our support will ensure Pacific countries have more tools to respond to COVID-19 to keep their populations safe,” said Minister Aupito Williams Sio.

“Oral antiviral treatments and second boosters are an important addition to pandemic response efforts globally. They reduce the risk of severe illness and hospitalisation following COVID-19 infection, especially for people with pre-existing health conditions,” he said.

“Providing treatments and vaccines through our domestic supply, and increasing access to antiviral treatments in collaboration with the World Health Organization, will enhance countries’ ability to respond to the pandemic and save lives,” said Ms Mahuta.

“Health systems across the world have felt the burden of COVID-19. It is our responsibility as a Pacific nation to work together with our Pacific partners to strengthen our collective capabilities to prepare for and respond to pandemics. In the long run, this helps us all in our efforts to achieve a safer, prosperous and resilient Pacific,” she said.

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