The roll out of second doses of COVID-19 vaccine begins Thursday, 24 June, at the Basilica Church in Nuku’alofa and Vaiola Hospital, health officials said.
Ministry of Health CEO Dr Siale ‘Akau’ola said once the second dose of vaccinations are completed, they can move on to vaccinating the rest of the population.
People receiving their second dose of the vaccine will need to present their vaccination card on the day they are due to be inoculated. Those who have misplaced their vaccination cards must show their ID.
Dr Veisinia Matoto said that people who can’t be vaccinated on their due date can be inoculated after the due date, but it must be within 12 weeks since receiving the first dose.
“Scientific evidence suggests that symptoms after the second dose of vaccine are lower than the first dose, and after receiving the second dose, it takes two to three weeks for the body to react to the vaccine to reach its highest protection level.” Dr Veisinia Matoto said.
The COVID-19 vaccine has around 92% protection from severe illness or hospitalization.
Next round of vaccines
The Ministry of Health is looking at getting the next batch of COVID-19 vaccines for the remainder of the target population (approximately 70%) as early as August, confirmed Dr ‘Akau’ola.
Pacific Islands countries such as Palau and American Samoa have already inoculated the majority of their adult populations and Palau has vaccinated 90 percent of its adult population. He went on to explain that Palau recently recorded a COVID-19 case who travelled into the country from Guam, but it did not have any effect on the country due to their high vaccination rate.
“For Tonga, we need to try and get our vaccinations to the highest level quickly.” Dr ‘Akau’ola said.
“Looking at the COVID-19 situation in Fiji, it is a wakeup call for Pacific countries”, he added.
“While Tonga has been able to stop the virus from entering the country, there will be a time when it can enter the country.” Dr ‘Akau’ola believes that if the majority of Tonga’s population is vaccinated, and the virus does enter the country, we won’t be affected like Fiji. Discussions to secure the next batch of COVID-19 vaccines are ongoing, but he said Tonga is looking at New Zealand, COVAX, and possibly USA.