First and foremost, I want to thank President Biden for making this important vaccine available to us through the COVAX programme. It is a part of the 80 million doses the United States has donated for distribution worldwide.
And the fact that the US is donating these vaccines through the COVAX programme means that they will be distributed as equitably as possible, especially to vulnerable developing countries.
I want to thank President Biden for this important initiative. He has shown the kind of leadership the world needs and expects from the United States. Full American engagement in the global fight against COVID is more than a great asset in this fight. It is absolutely indispensable.
We need this kind of co-operation from all the world’s developed countries as well as the advanced developing countries that have the capacity to produce vaccines.
To Tony and your team from the U.S Embassy, you have been here with us as we have fought this pandemic, and you know the fight we are engaged in. With the help of the U.S. and our friends in Australia and New Zealand, we have everything we need to contain this virus and get back to normal. We have enough vaccine doses for every Fijian, and we are busy getting them in people’s arms.
Most Fijians are doing their part, but we need more Fijians to step up. I would like to see all Fijians get the jab, and since we are standing here side by side with representatives of the United States, I would like to talk a little bit about what is happening there because the American experience contains a sobering lesson for us in Fiji.
In the U.S., about 59.5% of adults have been fully vaccinated and 68% have received one dose. Among people 65 years of age and over, it’s much higher: 89% have received one dose and 79% are fully vaccinated.
Older people everywhere know they are particularly vulnerable to this virus. To put it bluntly, they know they could die, and they would rather stay alive. So they don’t fuss about what some self-proclaimed expert might post on Facebook. They can’t afford to.
Just like in Fiji, some areas of the U.S. have higher vaccination rates, while other areas are experiencing resistance, and their vaccination rates are low. In areas of the U.S. where the vaccination rates are high, life has largely returned to normal.
People have been able to remove their masks, open their workplaces, go to restaurants and sporting events and take vacations. But there are some places where vaccination rates are low because people are resisting the vaccine. And in those places, the Delta Variant of the virus is spreading with a vengeance. Anyone who doubts the effectiveness of these vaccines need only look east across the Pacific and learn from that experience. We have the vaccines. Let’s use them.
The Moderna vaccine has been approved specifically in the US and by the W.H.O. for use by pregnant women, which should put some minds at ease. Anyone who has had doubts about the vaccine because you are pregnant or a family member is pregnant should take heart and make arrangements for vaccination. Beginning this week, women who have completed their first trimester of pregnancy will be able to receive the Moderna vaccine.
Individuals above 60 years of age are also encouraged to get the Moderna vaccine for protection. By the way, the Moderna vaccine requires two doses to be fully effective.
There are no easy ways around this pandemic. We have to meet it head-on, and we are. Our frontline workers have been working tirelessly and selflessly in our hospitals, homes, offices and informal settlements to eradicate COVID-19, and our doctors, nurses and medical administrators are providing critical leadership. Government has devoted all the resources at our disposal to support individuals and businesses who are suffering economically because of this pandemic.
But we need to get to the permanent solution. Once we do, this virus will be like the many other diseases we have defeated through vaccines—like smallpox, polio, measles and leprosy. Vaccines ARE the permanent solution—the proven solution.
Vinaka vakalevu to you, Tony, and your team at the Embassy for being our advocate in Washington. And thanks again to President Biden for hearing the voices coming from the Pacific.
Vinaka vakalevu. Now let’s all get the jab.