The Ministry of Health (MoH) will be rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine to TAFEA Province soon, after SANMA and SHEFA Provinces.
Almost 23,000 people in TAFEA Province are eligible to be vaccinated.
Vaccination will begin at west and south Tanna, initially targeting the prioritized population, such as healthcare workers, immigration officers, public transport drivers, elderly people (aged 55 and above) and those with existing medical conditions.
Over 200 people have participated in the risk and community engagement activities. The MoH reported a positive response from the Nikoletan Council of Chiefs and Tafea Council of Churches affirming their support for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
Strategic public locations where there are mass gathering, like the Lenakel market, are being targeted by the team, to ensure wide coverage of messaging.
President of the West Tanna Council of Chiefs, Jimmy William Iewis, said everyone should receive the vaccine.
He said: “We support the rollout of the vaccine on Tanna Island.
“We agreed in our meeting that we would support the health team to make sure that the right information reaches our communities and that the vaccine reaches our population. The future is in the hands of the children. It is important that we protect them.”
Chairman of the TAFEA Council of Churches, Deman Steven, said the TAFEA Council of Churches also support the vaccine rollout.
“It is important that we protect our people from coronavirus,” he said. “We have faith and we pray; however, it is important that we put this into action. Every church must appeal to their congregation to go and get the vaccine to protect from COVID-19 when the rollout starts in TAFEA Province.”
Owner of Tanna Evergreen Resort and Tours, Merian Numake, said: “Vaccination is not mandatory but it is important that people have a longer term focus. There are lots of things now where you need to get fully vaccinated to do, like travelling overseas for unskilled labour.
“Vanuatu cannot remain closed to the world forever. It’s important to communicate with people to make sure that they are getting the right information about the vaccine otherwise they get information from all kinds of sources. It’s important that people receive the right information.”
Apart from the community engagement, a mass media campaign rollout plan covering radio talkback shows, radio interviews, radio spots, SMS, and a social media plan will be rolled out in advance to the provincial launch.
Preparations are underway for a high-level launch event at the end of this month.
The MoH plans to continue the vaccine rollout to MALAMPA, after TAFEA Province.