Twelve thousand COVID-19 vaccines arrived at Fiji’s Nadi International Airport last weekend in a historic first for the region.
The vaccines are the first to be shipped into the Pacific through the COVAX Facility, an unparalleled partnership between the World Health Organization (WHO), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and UNICEF that aims to ensure equitable COVID-19 vaccine distribution around the world.
Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said the shipment had provided a “light at the end of the tunnel” for all Fijians.
"These vaccines represent more than the way back to normal life; they are the shot of life our economy, our industries and thousands of Fijian breadwinners need,” he said in a WHO news release. “It is about bringing back jobs, reconnecting families across borders and reclaiming Fiji’s rightful place in the world.”
The vaccine shipment will be distributed among 6,000 Fijian frontline health care and border quarantine workers and select aviation, maritime and immigration staff.
A further 96,000 COVAX Facility-supplied vaccines are expected to arrive in the nation in the coming months.
Dr Ratu Mara Vukivukiseru is a Consultant Anesthesist and Critical Care in Lautoka Hospital and is also our Covid-19 Clinical Lead in the West.— Dr I Waqainabete (@Nadokoulu) March 9, 2021
Today he is the first to receive the Astra Zeneca vaccine in Fiji.
A great champion behind the scenes.
Malo Roko Tau!#TogetherWeCanpic.twitter.com/TpmK5hp4Wz
UNICEF Pacific Representative Sheldon Yett applauded Fiji for working “incredibly hard” to advance its health systems in preparation for the vaccine’s arrival.
"The successful arrival of these vaccines is the product of global solidarity and partnership, and a recognition that we need to vaccinate those on the front lines of the pandemic, and the most vulnerable, in every corner of the world to ensure that all corners of the world are safe,” Yett stated. “We thank the government of Fiji for their leadership and our partners for making this possible.”
In the past few months, Fiji’s health ministry has identified priority populations, taught medical staff how to administer the vaccine safely and developed an online portal where people can register for the vaccine and officials can track the progress of the nationwide rollout.
The first COVID-19 immunisations began in the island nation Wednesday morning.