Tonga's extra doses, means more can get vaccinated

Thursday, April 29, 2021 - 18:49.  Updated on Friday, April 30, 2021 - 09:50.

Nuku'alofa, Tonga

(фото) Happiness is an efficient vaccination roll-out. Acting CEO for Health Dr Reynold ‘Ofanoa, Public Health Sister Afu Tei and Minister of Health Hon ‘Amelia Tu‘ipulotu. Nuku'alofa, 29 April 2021.
By Eleanor Gee

Tonga’s precious supply of covid vaccine can now be extended to thousands more people thanks to the skills of the Tongan nurses who have not wasted a drop of the first batch received this month.

The Ministry of Health announced today that people aged 35 years and over can now be vaccinated with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, after a mid-term review of the vaccination rollout confirmed that 4,800 extra doses could be extracted from the first batch of vials received by Tonga.

The Supervising Public Health Sister Afu Tei, said today they had found that by strictly using precise measurements of each innoculation, they could extract more doses from the vials.

She said the amount of vaccine dosage used in Tonga for each person, is 0.5ml or half a millilitre, which is in line with what other countries are using.

The vaccine information stipulates each vial provides 10 doses, but can reach 12 doses.

When the vaccine was rolled out on 15 April, Sister Afu vaccinated Princess Pilolevu, Lord Tuita and the Prime Minister Hon Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa and others.

“As I was the first person to vaccinate people, I confirmed how many doses are in one vial. The first vial I used reached 12 doses,” she said.

“Right now, nurses can reach about 12 doses for each vial. And that is why we have lowered the age limit because we have the extra doses."

She also confirmed that around 40% of the vaccines had been used to date.

“When each vial is opened, it expires after six-hours. Since the beginning of the program, we have not wasted one dose. The nurses also keeps in contact with other teams in various locations to ensure all the doses are used up within the six-hours.”

The COVAX facility supplied enough for about 20% of Tonga's population to receive first doses. With second doses to follow in June. The 4,800 doses saved are additional to this.

Keep Tonga safe

The Minister for Health Hon ‘Amelia Tu‘ipulotu urged anyone in Tonga who is eligible, to get their vaccination as soon as possible and keep our island safe.

“This is especially important now with the recent outbreak of virus variant in our neighbour Fiji,” she said.

The Minister was pleased to have seen first hand the professionalism, international standard and high competence of nurses administering the vaccines in the community.

The World Health Organization had estimated up to 15% percentage of the vaccines would be wasted.

She acknowledged Sister Afu and Sister Tilema for their work in training nurses to administer vaccines accurately and precisely.

“This is good news because there is a limited amount of COVID-19 vaccines in the world. This is a precious resource to keep our country safe.”

Strengthening quarantine

Acting CEO for Health Dr Reynold ‘Ofanoa said learning from Fiji's outbreak, they will be looking at how to further strengthen our quarantine process.

The Ministry of Health now encourages, people who are aged 35 years and above, and also those aged 18 years and above with a non-communicable disease or with disabilities can be vaccinated.

If the vaccination program has moved from people's communities, they can go to vaccination sites or visit the NCD centre at Vaiola Hospital from 8:00am to 4:00pm.

Sister Afu said a mobile vaccination team is also available to vaccinate those who are not able to get to the locations. She said they can call 0800019 to arrange a time for the team to see them.

To date, 8,220 have been vaccinated and less than 1% experienced mild symptoms with no one admitted to hospital in Tonga.

(фото) Sister Afu Tei prepares to vaccinate frontliners at Falemasiva Hall, Tofoa. 15 April 2021.