All of PNG’s 252 covid virus deaths ‘unvaccinated’, says health minister

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Goroka Hospital morgue
The wrapped body of a patient who died of covid-19 being moved from the morgue at Goroka Hospital in Eastern Highlands province. Image: The National

By Miriam Zarriga in Port Moresby

All 252 people reported to have died in Papua New Guinea from the covid-19 pandemic have been unvaccinated, says Health and HIV/Aids Minister Jelta Wong.

He also said that 99 percent of covid-19 patients in hospitals around the country were also unvaccinated.

He told Parliament yesterday that “100 percent of the patients are in critical care and requiring oxygen”.

“Official cumulative numbers of those affected by covid-19 stand at 23,365, with 252 lives lost,” he said.

“But the official figures are nowhere near the actual numbers in the provinces.

“Just like other developing countries which have [gone through] a third wave of the covid-19 delta variant surge, the undeclared number of infections and deaths is much higher.”

Wong said some people had died in villages.

Cause of death ‘likely unknown’
“It is unlikely that the cause of their deaths will be known and will not be recorded,” he said.

He said the healthcare system had been underfunded for decades and Papua New Guinea was still a developing country “facing the challenges of data collation”.

Wong pointed out that the increasing number of sick or dead people now was motivating many to get vaccinated.

“Demand is rising considerably,” he said.

“So much so that while a few months ago we had vaccines expiring, now the government [wants] to bring new doses before the end of the year.

“There is a significant amount of personal protective equipment distributed to the provinces.

“But the lack of visibility on usage and remaining stockpiles is proving a challenge and better data and feedback systems are being developed.

“It includes the Health Department building a dashboard to better monitor this data.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has developed guidelines on covid-19 therapeutics which is regularly updated, he said.

Miriam Zarriga is a reporter for The National. Republished with permission.

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