New research from the aid agency CARE has found that for every US$1 wealthy countries spend on COVID-19 vaccines for poorer nations, an extra US$5 on average will be needed to roll them out.
The findings come at a time when Australia’s northern neighbour, Papua New Guinea, is being overwhelmed by the virus, with the Australian Government pledging 8,000 doses and asking European authorities for a million more.
CARE’s report calls for more to be spent on paying, training and equipping the frontline health workers who will be key to a successful rollout. It notes that 70% of the world’s healthcare workers are women.
Community outreach programs will also be needed to build trust in the vaccine, with CARE warning that harmful misinformation about the virus and the vaccine are spreading online and by word of mouth in Papua New Guinea.
CARE Australia CEO Peter Walton said: “We welcome the Australian Government’s announcement of extra COVID-19 support for Papua New Guinea, but more will be needed to ensure our Pacific neighbours can undertake smooth, swift and safe vaccine rollouts.
“We need to look beyond vaccine production and shipment and recognise the crucial role of nurses and community health workers in building trust and getting people vaccinated.
“The COVID-19 crisis has shone a light on just how important healthcare workers are, and how much we owe them for keeping us safe in challenging and dangerous circumstances.
“The majority of the world’s healthcare workers are women, and just like many jobs performed by women, their work too often goes underpaid and overlooked. Failure to support the global vaccine rollout means putting women at the greatest risk.”
In Papua New Guinea, where 80% of people live in rural areas, the community health workers who mostly staff rural clinics play a key role in frontline health care. Most are women.
Even before the pandemic they faced many challenges, including low pay, lack of support, poor infrastructure and a lack of equipment and supplies.
Peter Walton said: “Both at home and overseas, we cannot successfully vaccinate people against COVID-19 unless the healthcare workers on the frontline are properly trained, paid, supported and equipped.”
Read the full report.