Not over yet
The need to maintain COVID-19 vaccine donations to developing countries .
Karen Price interviewed by Elise Hartevelt
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners ( RACGP ) has pressed the federal government to step up its COVID-19 vaccine dose donation efforts as the existing $ 300 million Pacific support package expires in June .
During the pandemic , the Pacific support package has delivered economic assistance for countries in the Pacific and Timor-Leste , and RACGP President Doctor Karen Price says it ’ s not advisable to stop the funds now .
Many developing countries still have very low vaccination rates , including Papua New Guinea , where only 3.5 % of the population has received a single dose .
“ The entire developed world , including Australia , needs to wake up and do much more to boost vaccination efforts in the developing world . This includes ensuring that excess stock isn ’ t simply thrown in the bin ,” Price said .
“ These vaccines will save lives and if we want to stop new variants and
24 | nursingreview . com . au sub-variants emerging , which may be more transmissible or deadly , we can ’ t just vaccinate people in wealthy countries and hope the virus will go away .”
Price joined Nursing Review to discuss the role of GPs and nurses in advocating for vaccine dose donations for developing countries .
NR : Why should the federal government improve its COVID-19 vaccine dose donation efforts ? KP : It ’ s very important . We ’ ve got three billion people overseas who have not yet received a COVID vaccination in lowincome countries , and the COVAX facility , which is a combination of a few other countries , was created to make sure that we could get doses into low-income countries .
Twenty-five million doses have been donated so far , which has been excellent , but obviously we need a lot more . The trouble is that donating doses into lowincome countries is good , of course , and very important in terms of managing a global pandemic and keeping potential variants out . However , we ’ re very lucky in Australia , and we ’ ve got to remember that in many of these countries , health literacy is relatively low , and also the distribution capability for vaccines through lower-functioning health systems is not great .
So , even if we get the vaccine doses there , there ’ s some challenges in being able to distribute them adequately . It won ’ t be the same sort of procedure that we ’ ve experienced in Australia .
What is currently happening to unused vaccine doses in Australia ? We ’ ve done pretty well . We ’ ve got over 90 per cent of our population vaccinated . There ’ s still some potentially vulnerable groups that we ’ re looking at . And particularly with our booster , our third dose . I was in a meeting with Department of Health this morning and many of our aged care citizens are certainly taking up the third booster , and in many cases the winter dose as it ’ s called , or the fourth .
The winter booster is that fourth dose for people over 65 and Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders over 50 , and those with chronic health conditions or who are immunosuppressed . We are actually doing well in our targeted and vulnerable populations . It ’ d be good to see more of the population take up that third dose for