Vanuatu Red Cross struggling to get vaccines to outer islands

Vanuatu Red Cross says transporting the Covid-19 vaccines outside of Port Vila has been a major hindrance to increasing the vaccination rates in the country.

Vanuatu has recorded more than 7,600 Covid-19 cases and 13 deaths since the beginning of the year - and has only 38 percent of its population fully vaccinated.

Secretary-general Dickinson Tevi said getting vaccines to other provinces and outer islands so that more ni-Vanuatu people are inoculated is a challenge for the authorities.

Tevi said the movement restrictions currently in place to stop the spread of community transmissions is also slowing down the process.

"The challenge at the moment is the restriction that we have with traveling to the islands and moving about while we have the transmission. I think this is what is really slowing down the vaccination. Otherwise, I am sure once the vaccination reaches out to the communities, they will gladly accept the protection," he said.

Tevi said a lot of people were reading news on social media which makes them apprehensive about taking the Covid-19 vaccine.

But he said, despite the challenges, Vanuatu Red Cross volunteers are helping with the rollout of vaccinations..

"The message to the community we encourage them to take the vaccination as a protection. We are reminding them that this is the first wave and there could be a second wave and we don't know what the strength of the variant will be so taking the vaccine is the safest things to do," Tevi said.

Meanwhile, Medical staff and equipment continue to arrive on Vanuatu's Pentecost island as Covid-19 cases increase.

Penama Health Manager, Markson Tabi, says doctors, nurses and 40 bottles of oxygen arrived on Tuesday and have been dispatched to health centres around the island.

638 people have been tested for the virus so far with 283 positive.

Meanwhile, some of the local restrictions, such as a ban on entering the island by air or sea, have been lifted.

Tabi said Pentecost had also carried out its first repatriation of the people of Ambae Island who had been stranded on Pentecost for over two months.

And Pentecost people, stranded on Efate and Santo, can now return home.



Photo supplied Vanuatu Red Cross  Caption: Volunteers in West Coast Santo reach out to remote communities about the benefits of getting vaccinated and best practices in handwashing. In some villages, Covid-19 awareness has to be done at the beach as required by community taskforces guidelines.