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Vaccination Status Update

The Village Explainer
Vaccination Status Update
By Dan McGarry • Issue #63 • View online
The Village Explainer is a semi-regular newsletter containing analysis and insight focusing on under-reported aspects of Pacific societies, politics and economics.
In this issue, we take a quick look at Vanuatu’s vaccination progress.

A Shefa Public Health nurse prepares a vaccine at a roadside vaccination clinic
A Shefa Public Health nurse prepares a vaccine at a roadside vaccination clinic
As Vanuatu’s vaccination campaign continues to roll out nationwide, the news is good, but perhaps not as good as it could be.
The absolute shambles in official communication relating to an unauthorised flight from Noumea that introduced what may be the first case of COVID-19’s Delta variant is ongoing.
We hope that regulations were followed and all passengers were fully vaccinated, but this has never been communicated. And given that regulations were NOT followed in other regards, the question deserves a clear answer.
Fully vaccinated people are far less likely to transmit the virus.
La 1ere news reported that 8 of the passengers had already contracted COVID-19 in the past, but this has not been conveyed to local media. This also needs clarity. Past COVID infection can sometimes generate false positive test results.
The Daily Post reports this morning that one positive case has been moved to isolation. This means the person is showing symptoms. Updates on their condition would be welcome.
An investigation into this debacle is ongoing, and is being conducted by the Public Service Commission. The Daily Post reports that Vanuatu’s Consul to New Caledonia and the Director of the National Disaster Management Office have both been suspended on full pay pending the outcome of the investigation.
It beggars belief that these two were the only ones who knew about the flight, and either helped or allowed it to happen. Air Vanuatu management have a great many questions to answer, as do many others.
It’s in the national interest that we see a thorough and complete investigation. This kind of folly can cost lives.
Elsewhere in the annals of miscommunication, Parliamentary Clerk Raymond Manuake told the Daily Post that he’d received no instructions relating to a threat made by DPM Ishmael Kalsakau that unvaccinated MPs would not be allowed in the parliamentary chamber. It’s kind of a shame, because the majority of people would likely support such a measure.
Now, to (mostly) better news. Here’s our vaccination progress in a nutshell:
Welcome to the Vanuatu VaX Tracker
Nationally, progress has been relatively good. Vaccination rates are climbing steadily, and it looks like key parts of the country are on course to achieve at least partial protection for 90% or more of their population by Christmas.
We have yet to see updates this week from Malampa and Penama province, but are hoping for positive numbers there. All other figures are current as of October 31.
Numbers are good, but could always be better
Numbers are good, but could always be better
Looking at things in a bit more detail:
  • It’s a bit of a pain that Health Promotions Vanuatu doesn’t break out the statistics a little more thoroughly. We still have no indication what proportion of people are fully vaccinated at the neighbourhood or area council level. That’s not great.
  • Although they’re developing a roadmap and timeline to reach 90% partial protection (a Good Thing), we don’t yet have a timeline to reach 90% total protection (not a Good Thing). We need this in goal, to build motivation, to lend a sense of urgency to the situation, and to offer the long-suffering people of Vanuatu a light at the end of a very long tunnel.
  • That said, South Santo is moving ahead by leaps and bounds. Congratulations to the incredibly successful Sanma Health team, who are out-performing all other provincial teams at this stage.
  • Port Vila is seeing increased friction as the numbers push higher, but the breadth of the result suggests the central vaccination clinic at George Pompidou is still pushing numbers up across the board. The fact that numbers are rising everywhere in the province suggests that people are still willing to actively pursue vaccination. That’s a real comfort.
  • Roadside vaccination clinics in Port Vila and rural Efate are going great guns. They’re working flat out and achieving great things, but they need more resources to bring this effort home.
  • Public messaging that vaccination as an urgent and important concern is evidently working. Well done to everyone who’s contributed to saving lives.
  • The Le Lagon + Little Tokyo neighbourhood in Port Vila has been integrated into Pango’s numbers, apparently because of reporting inconsistencies (people don’t know which side of the boundary they live on). The effect is that Pango still looks good, but the worst performing neighbourhood in the entire urban area is now gone. Coincidence?
  • We haven’t seen any plan for boosters or for vaccination of children and adolescents yet. These need urgent attention beginning in January at the latest.
  • Conversion failure rates (1st -> 2nd dose) still hover around 8% after 12 weeks. That’s not good enough. It take two [shots] to tango. A national average of 8% failure to convert rate could make national vaccination targets unreachable and delay re-opening efforts.
The health professionals driving this national effort are to be commended for their dedication and commitment. It’s hard to ask more of those who’ve already given so much, but the plain fact is that if the Delta variant had broken containment last week, we would be in dire straits right now.
The Daily Post quotes health officials, who estimate that we will need 153 more nurses and 83 more support staff if a local outbreak occurs.
We are simply not ready to cope with a local epidemic yet. Vaccination isn’t our only line of defence, but if it fails, everything else is doomed to fail.
Save lives. Get your shot.
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Dan McGarry

The Village Explainer is a semi-regular newsletter containing analysis and insight focusing on under-reported aspects of Pacific societies, politics and economics.

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Dan McGarry - Port Vila, Vanuatu