Don’t rely on Facebook for accurate vaccine info, says PNG leader

PNG Prime Minister James Marape being vaccinated
PNG's Prime Minister James Marape was the first in his country to get the AstraZeneca covid-19 vaccine on Tuesday. Image: PNG PM Media

RNZ Pacific

Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister has warned citizens against relying on information on Facebook to guide their approach to vaccines.

James Marape was speaking after becoming the first person to receive the AstraZeneca covid-19 vaccine in his country.

Australia has provided an initial 8000 vaccine doses to PNG where the total number of confirmed covid-19 cases has climbed by hundreds to 5991 – a rise of 371 by midday on Tuesday.

The death toll has now reached 60.

Faced with vaccine hesitancy in PNG, Marape said citizens should be comforted by evidence in Australia and elsewhere that it is safe for populations to get vaccinated.

“Facebook is not a place where you source accurate information. Look into established literature and data available on what vaccines can do, on what is being done globally,” he said.

“For us, Papua New Guinea, we are beneficial to research already conducted elsewhere, based on best evidence available,” the prime minister explained.

Marape reassures the public
After getting the jab himself, Marape sought to assure the public, especially health workers, that the AstraZeneca covid-19 vaccine was safe.

Hundreds of health workers have been infected with covid-19, and Marape said he did not want the country to lose any frontliners.

He said community transmission of the virus was increasingly hampering the health system.

While vaccination was not compulsory, Marape said PNG’s communities must take ownership of fighting the virus.

A nation-wide isolation strategy which commenced this month introduced restrictions on public movement, as well as mandatory mask use and other measures, but adherence had been slack in many areas.

The prime minister indicated that the government could impose further measures to restrict movement of people between villages, towns and provinces,

PNG keeping options open on vaccine access
Marape said the government was looking at all options to ensure that covid-19 vaccines were optionally available for Papua New Guineans.

He told reporters his government was working closely with the Chinese government.

PNG’s medical authorities are considering whether to approve China’s Sinopharm vaccine for use in the country, with an announcement expected in the coming week.

Two months ago China announced a donation of 200-thousand doses of the vaccine to PNG.

Marape said PNG was also expecting another million Astra Zeneca doses from Australia, and is looking into other possibilities through the global Covax network.

The latest numbers from the Pandemic Response Controller
Papua New Guinea recorded four new covid-19 deaths to Tuesday midday, taking the national toll to 60.

All four deaths were reported in the National Capital District.

Two females aged 19 and 63, with the two men aged 44 and 49.

Most of the deaths, 48, have happened in Port Moresby.

The total number of cases is up to 5,991 – a rise of 371.

Again most in the capital, but also 31 in Morobe, 36 in Western Province and 8 in Bougainville.

There are now covid cases in 20 of PNG 22 provinces.

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

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