THE United States Government, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United States Department of Defense, yesterday handed over essential medical supplies, together with more critical COVID-19 vaccines, to the Ministry of Health and Medical Services in Solomon Islands to support with their response activities against COVID-19.
These medical supplies were handed over to the Solomon Islands Government in an official ceremony held at the National Medical Store. In attendance were the Hon. Minister of Health and Medical Services, Dr. Culwick Togamana; Charge D’Affaires of the United States Embassy in Solomon Islands, Russell Comeau; UNICEF Pacific Representative, Jonathan Veitch; Chief of UNICEF Pacific’s Solomon Islands Field Office, Dr. Zelalem Taffesse; as well as Ministry of Health and Medical Services’ officials.
“On behalf of the government and people of Solomon Islands, allow me to express our sincere appreciation for the supplies that are being received today. Though COVID-19 situation has improved, we are still not yet in the clear due to opening of our borders with international arrivals, posing great risks of bringing in other COVID variants. Thus, COVID-19 testing and continued roll out of COVID-19 vaccines still remains critical,” said the Hon. Minister of Health and Medical Services, Dr. Culwick Togamana, upon receiving the supplies.
“On Tuesday, this week, I have also announced outbreak of Viral Respiratory Illness (VRI) in our capital Honiara, and parts of Malaita and Guadalcanal provinces with serious risks of spreading to all other provinces due to ongoing inter-island travels without any restrictions. Therefore, as the Ministry of Health responds to both COVID-19 and the current VRI outbreak, all these medical supplies will greatly enable us to carry out our mandate to preserve the health and lives of our people from these health risks. Once again thank you to the government and people of the United States of America, the COVAX Facility and UNICEF for this important support delivered today,” he added.
The Ministry received 35,100 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines from the United States Government through the COVAX Facility – a partnership co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the World Health Organization (WHO), with UNICEF as the key delivery partner.
This latest vaccine donation from the American people will contribute towards fully vaccinating 17,050 people, including pregnant women and children aged between 11 to 17, in Solomon Islands. This is in line with the country’s National Deployment and Vaccination Plan.
“The United States is honored to continue to support Solomon Islands’ fight against COVID-19, and more broadly, to support health systems strengthening for healthier Solomon Islanders,” said Russell Comeau, Chargé D’Affaires, U.S. Embassy. “We stand committed to the friendship between Solomon Islanders and the American people. These latest donations and our continued support stand as a testament to that commitment.”
The Ministry also received essential medical supplies, supported by USAID and UNICEF, including three high performance medical tents, 400 packs of surgical grade masks, 200 boxes of medical gloves, 400 full-face face shields, 200 protective medical aprons, 20 oxygen concentrators, and 2,000 isolation gowns. The supplies will support in protecting front line healthcare workers against COVID-19 as well as providing COVID-19 affected patients oxygen in isolated environments.
In addition, the Ministry received a total of 140,520 Rapid Antigen test kits, 170 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test kits and 1,700 nasal swabs. The kits will support quick detection of the virus among individuals suspected of COVID-19. By identifying the virus swiftly, there is less chance of it spreading to the families and communities.
Of those, 62,500 Rapid Antigen test kits, 170 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test kits and 1,700 nasal swabs were handed over through a partnership between USAID and UNICEF. An additional 78,020 Rapid Antigen test kits were requested by the Solomon Islands Government and provided by the United States Department of Defense through Overseas Humanitarian, Disaster Assistance, and Civic Aid, which allows Combatant Commanders to provide immediate life-saving assistance to countries in their region.
“UNICEF has always been a key partner for Solomon Islands in the fight against COVID-19,” said UNICEF Pacific Representative, Jonathan Veitch, during a visit to the country. We are pleased to be partnering with the United States Government in supporting Solomon Islands with these lifesaving health supplies, including the delivery of these COVID-19 vaccines. UNICEF will work closely with the Ministry of Health and Medical Services to ensure that even the most remote communities are able to access these critical supplies.”
The supplies handed over today build upon the promise from the United States Government to support Solomon Islands in the fight against COVID-19. Including this latest shipment, the American people have so far donated a total of 188,370 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, through the COVAX Facility, contributing to the protection of more than 94,185 Solomon Islanders, including children and pregnant women.