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By Eleisha Foon, RNZ Pacific journalist

Concern is growing around low covid-19 vaccine rates in the Pacific.

People in developing nations are generally missing out due to accessibility issues, a slow roll out of vaccines, difficulties getting to remote areas, a lack health of resources and misinformation resulting in vaccine hesitancy.

But ChildFund director of programmes Quenelda Clegg said developed countries need to support the Pacific and also stop hoarding vaccines.

The organisation has been raising awareness about vaccine inequity and the issues happening in the Pacific.

“We need to support our neighbours. They are having covid in their countries and we are starting to see those outbreaks,” she said.

“They do need more and there needs to be a continual supply to ensure they get their vaccinations up to double dose and they need to consider boosters and vaccinations for children.”

Papua New Guinea has some of the lowest vaccination rates in the world — only 3 percent of the population are double vaccinated.

Near 10 percent of Solomon Islanders have had two vaccine doses and in Vanuatu it is about 22 percent.

Samoa is 60 percent double vaccinated and Kiribati is 50 percent double vaxxed.

New Zealand supplies
“The New Zealand government has given a good supply to Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, but they have committed to sending more so we must ensure they do that and hold them to account,” Clegg said.

COVAX, the worldwide initiative aimed at equitable access to covid-19 vaccines, needed to do more, she said.

Kiribati is the only Pacific nation to be supported so far by COVAX, which is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), GAVI vaccine alliance, World Health Organisation and UNICEF.

She said some countries (but not New Zealand) were giving away vaccines when they were almost expired.

“The support to COVAX needs to be strategic and meaningful. It can’t be when they’re just about to expire.”

She warned new variants could emerge “from the Pacific, if we don’t do something now”.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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