Media statement

Joint Statement – WHO and Fiji Ministry of Health

Last Updated on 2 months by Publishing Team

Joint Statement WHO and Ministry of Health and Medical Services statement on Australian announcement to changes in age recommendations for AstraZeneca Vaccines 

 

COVID-19 vaccination remains one of our most effective measures in response to the current COVID-19 outbreak, significantly reducing a person’s risk of being infected, seriously ill, hospitalized or dying from COVID-19. As new information and evidence becomes available, we are also continuously assessing our efforts and response as the continued safety and protection of our communities is at the forefront of all aspects of our efforts.  

 

The benefits of vaccines are clear. We see from other countries around the world, like Israel and the United States, who have vaccinated high proportions of their population that they have significantly reduced the number of hospitalized patients and slowed the spread of COVID-19. This has also allowed them to relax some of their containment measures. So, we know vaccines work and they are an invaluable tool we have available for our response.  

 

Fiji, alongside 22 other countries globally, has successfully and safely administered over 2 billion doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to people aged 18 years and older. We are aware that Australia recently announced changes to their age recommendations for their national distribution of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines following a rare but serious adverse event following immunization. Decisions such as this are being undertaken by national governments on a basis of various considerations, including weighing up the various risks. This being what is the risk of a person being infected and becoming seriously ill from COVID-19, compared to the risk of suffering a rare, but severe side effect from the vaccine. It is clear that in the Fiji context, our case numbers are escalating daily and the risk of being infected with COVID-19 and getting severe disease and dying in Fiji is much higher than in Australia because we have community transmission in the Lami-Nausori area and in the West. Mitigating the effects of the outbreak, including preventing more people getting severe disease and dying, will depend on our ability to get as many people vaccinated as possible, and as quickly as possible.

 

Australia’s decision does not change the approach for us here in Fiji.  Given the current community transmission and COVID-19 variant, all unvaccinated individuals are at risk from the virus. Recent events in Fiji and many other countries have shown us how quickly outbreaks can spread despite intensive contact tracing and public health action. It is also important to remember that serious adverse events following immunization with the AstraZeneca vaccine remain rare events. To date no confirmed cases of serious adverse events following immunization have been detected in Fiji despite 256018 individuals being given one dose (44% of the adult population) and 17990 individuals having had 2 doses to date.  This is a phenomenal achievement of not only of our community coming together to protect each other, but also the tireless efforts of our vaccination teams in ensuring vaccines are being delivered to communities across the county.  Furthermore, our vaccination teams and clinicians have been well trained and have the resources on hand to treat individuals if such rare incidents do occur.   

 

The World Health Organization’s recommendations for Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines remain the same, with the vaccines recommended for individuals aged 18 years and over. These vaccines have undergone the strictest safety and quality control trials and have reached the exacting standards of safety, purity, and effectiveness. Nothing is left to chance.