Vaccine promised to Pacific

Tuesday 25 August 2020 | Written by Rashneel Kumar | Published in Health


Australia vows to share with ‘our family in the Pacific’.

Cook Islands is among Pacific nations set to benefit from a promising Covid-19 vaccine licenses for manufacture in Australia.

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has promised to distribute the vaccine to the Pacific, if they are able to develop a supply of working drugs.

Canberra has struck a deal with UK-based drug company AstraZeneca to locally produce the vaccine, being trialled at Oxford University, the ABC reported.

If the trials were successful, Morrison said Australia would use its aid programme to send the vaccine to its “Pacific neighbours”.

Liana Scott, president of the Tourism Industry Council, said: “Any inkling of news of a breakthrough in a vaccine is the most exciting broadcast yet, particularly if Australia is confident enough to secure 25 million doses.”

“With the reputable Oxford University announcement, hope is on the horizon and this is indeed great news for neighbouring New Zealand and no doubt the Pacific.”

Scott, who is also the general manager of Muri Beach Club Hotel, said the Cook Islands “cannot afford not to” miss the opportunity to be part of Australia’s proposed vaccine programme for the Pacific.

“I would imagine that the Cook Islands Government would be lobbing with New Zealand to be part of the next roll-out, included in this arrangement, or making their own arrangements which would be very beneficial for travellers and its economies,” she said. “In fact, they cannot afford not to.

“Our focus now is to get businesses surviving until then.”

Morrison said: “We would be looking through our development assistance agreements to be able to roll this sort of support out certainly to our Pacific neighbours.

“We have a partnership with our family in the Pacific and the rest of the world really does look on Australia as providing that support to those developing countries in our own region.”

Human trials of the Oxford vaccine began in April and researchers reported in mid-July that the vaccine had produced a promising immune response in an early study of 543 healthy adults aged 18 to 55. There were no safety concerns, researchers said.

A vaccine has to progress through three phases of trials – each with more people – to prove it is both safe and effective.

Phase-three trials of the Oxford vaccine are under way in several countries, including the United States, South Africa and Brazil, Stuff reports.

Meanwhile, a test to diagnose Covid-19 using saliva is being looked at as a potential player in New Zealand’s fight against the pandemic.

Aucklander Dr Anne Wyllie, based at the Yale School of Public Health in Connecticut, led research which found saliva samples may be more sensitive to detecting Covid-19 than the invasive “gold standard” nasal swab tests.