Vaccine dose interval shortened to six weeks

Fiji’s Health Ministry will be shortening interval between doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines to six weeks, from eight weeks starting in Bua.

Permanent Secretary for Health Dr James Fong said this is to increase vaccination coverage for the subdivision as current levels “remains a concern” particularly in preparation for quarantine-free travel to the northern division.

The ministry did not say what the current vaccination coverage is, but the vaccination database shows that as of 20 September, 43.3 per cent of the population were fully vaccinated, the lowest recorded in the North. In Cakaudrove 48.7 per cent of its population were fully vaccinated, Macuata, 66.8, and Taveuni, 48.8.

“Our current vaccine coverage data indicates a need for MOHMS to provide additional resources to Nabouwalu Hospital to prepare for the possible escalation of COVID 19 cases and adverse events,” Dr Fong said.

“The Whole-of-Government Community Engagement initiative will be escalated in the North with particular attention made to the Bua Subdivision and this will include a reduction of the dose interval to six weeks. We look forward to the engagement of all community leaders to facilitate this exercise.”

In addition to beefing up vaccination numbers, the ministry will be escalating its community surveillance protocols to help identify and contain any outbreak early, register vulnerable persons especially in poorly vaccinated areas, prepare for the monitoring of positive cases and vulnerable persons to ensure better access to appropriate care plans, and review and strengthen clinical care protocols for the severe disease.

The interval between AstraZeneca doses was initially set at 12 weeks, reduced to eight weeks around July during the height of the coronavirus infections, to six for the Bua subdivision, a direction that other countries including Australia has taken so that more individuals can be fully vaccinated earlier.

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