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The first batch of COVID-19 vaccines arrived in Timor-Leste on April 5, bringing a new sense of the world to the tiny Indo-Pacific nation that has endured devastating floods and a capital city under severe coronavirus lockdown Hope.
The first 24,000 doses arrived thanks to the COVAX facility, a vaccine exchange alliance between the World Health Organization, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness. The program aims to immunize 20% of the country’s 1.3 million people. The next vaccine shipment is scheduled for May.
According to Odete Viegas, General Director of Health Services in Timor-Leste, the doses will be prioritized for the frontline workers.
According to Viegas, getting those will be crucial immunize who work near the land border with Indonesia as the neighboring nation has seen the worst of any Southeast Asian country – over 1.5 million cases and 41,000 deaths have been recorded since the pandemic began.
Timor-Leste has just 714 cases and no deaths recorded.
“We hope that the 24,000 doses of vaccines can cover the front team,” said Viegas, according to the Timorese agency Tatoli. “According to the plan, the start of the vaccine is scheduled for April 7th. Then we will distribute doses to the communities for two weeks and do the vaccination there.”
And they are here! # COVAX vaccines have landed in #TimorLeste and #TeamEurope is here to welcome them. A reason for optimism after the tragic floods. pic.twitter.com/WBZfRQXGlS
Australia, Timor-Leste’s neighbor to the south, has pledged to help the nation respond to the chaos caused by heavy rains, floods and landslides that killed at least 113 people.
A spokesman for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said Australia had already provided backup power to the country’s national COVID-19 testing laboratory that had been flooded.
“Australia has a responsibility to support and have capacity for the countries in our region Building COVID-19 Response, “said Sharon Lewin, a doctor and infectious disease researcher and founding director of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity to Global Citizen. “The type of support we offer should be determined by Timor-Leste.”
Lewin said it was in Australia’s best interests to help its closest neighbors deal with the challenges of the pandemic.
“It’s become a cliché now, but the tagline ‘COVID-19 isn’t over until it’s over for everyone’ is just as true,” she said. “We cannot have two worlds – one for those who are vaccinated and one for those who are not. Without everyone vaccinated, there is always a risk of further outbreaks. It is just the thing.”
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