COVID-19 vaccination rollout in Papua New Guinea needs a boost


More people are now eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine in Papua New Guinea, but with vaccine hesitancy a major challenge in the country, the business community is playing a major role in helping to spread the message that ‘no one is safe until everyone is safe.’

Arrival of the first shipment of 132,000 AstraZeneca vaccine doses that arrived in PNG through the COVAX facility. Credit: UNICEF

Over 30,400 people have so far been vaccinated against COVID-19 in Papua New Guinea. But how do you get the rest of the population, which is calculated at about 9 million, vaccinated?

The vaccination rollout started in PNG in early May with the support of UNICEF, which has helped the government plan and coordinate the rollout, train and supervise workers as well as communicate COVID-19 information. Vaccines have mostly been supplied to PNG under the international COVAX facility, which has allocated 588,000 doses to PNG, of which 132,000 have been received.

In addition to the doses already donated by Australia, the Chinese government has recently pledged 200,000 doses of the Sinovax vaccine to PNG.

According to UNICEF, the target is to have 20 per cent of the population vaccinated by 2021 and 30 per cent by 2022.

Vaccine hesitancy

Last week, Melinda Susapu, Incident Manager of PNG’s Department of Health, told a Businesses for Health (B4H) briefing that vaccination ‘hesitancy’ amongst the population, including frontline workers, has been a major challenge.

Despite communications efforts, including workshops, emails blasts and social media, PNG still has thousands of AstraZeneca vaccine shots that will expire in mid-July if not used.

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Susapu said ‘anyone that is coming through, we assess. We are keen to get people vaccinated, especially corporates and anyone who meets the categories.’

An online poll conducted by The National. The screenshot was captured on 6 June 2021. Credit: The National

‘Without advocacy, vaccine acceptance in workplaces is between 15 to 22 per cent,’ said Materua Tamarua, the National Control Centre’s List Leader Vaccinations during the B4H update. ‘It’s reflective of what is happening, unfortunately you can choose the source of your truth and those sources are not always validated. Social media is the biggest culprit.’

Role of business

While science communicators and advocates have to play a key role in helping the population of PNG understand that ‘no one is safe until everyone is safe’, business can also play a key role.

‘Business are the connectors between everyone,’ said Yutong Ding, New Strategic Partnerships at UNICEF Australia, in a recent forum. ‘Please help us promote the message of vaccine safety and knowledge.’

PNG’s business chambers are actively encouraging the vaccine rollout, while Steamships Trading Company, one of PNG’s longest-established companies, is placing advertisements promoting vaccination.

Newcrest Mining, the operator of the Lihir gold mine mine in PNG, has also pledged their support, explained Ding, and is helping with COVID-19 vaccination logistics. Alongside online ecommerce platform eBay and the international NGO GHD Foundation, Newcrest is part of a global COVID Vaccination Alliance that UNICEF will announce on 15 June. UNICEF is inviting other businesses to join the alliance.

Every bit counts

Frontline workers, the vulnerable population, people 45 years and over and those with pre-existing conditions can now register to get their vaccination. In Port Moresby, ABC reports that ‘many people who aren’t technically eligible have also been able to get the vaccine by going to a centre and asking for it.’

But the key message is this – every business can do their part by communicating to its staff what the advantages and possible risks of the COVID-19 vaccination are.

What are you planning to do to help your staff get vaccinated? Send us an email and share your strategy with us at

A reminder

Pandemic Measure No 12 states that ‘no public health facilities shall charge any fee or require any payment when immunising any person against COVID-19 unless authorised in writing to do so by the Controller.’

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