First batch of vaccine touches down

James Kon

Brunei Darussalam yesterday morning received the first batch of 24,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine which arrived at Brunei International Airport on SQ flight 148.

Acting Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health (MoH) Haji Maswadi bin Haji Mohsin and Deputy Permanent Secretary (Professional) at the MoH Dr Haji Zulaidi bin Haji Abdul Latif received the vaccine at the airport.

The 24,000 doses are the first of a total of 100,800 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine expected to reach Brunei shores from the COVAX Facility by June end. The COVAX Facility or COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Plan is a partnership between the World Health Organization (WHO), Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

COVAX shipped 24,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine from Amsterdam via Singapore to Brunei Darussalam on March 31.

This is a historic step in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and in ensuring the safety of the people in the country. The delivery is part of a wave of arrivals that will continue over the coming months, the MoH said.

The first shipment of the AstraZeneca vaccine arrives at the Brunei International Airport. PHOTO: BAHYIAH BAKIR

“Vaccination is the most effective measure to protect oneself, loved ones and even the community. In the medium and long term, the more people are vaccinated, the higher the level of immunity of the population against the disease,” Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar said during a press conference at the launch of the National Vaccination Programme on Thursday.

The COVAX Facility is an unprecedented global effort to provide every country with equitable access to safe COVID-19 vaccines as rapidly as possible. COVAX is part of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) accelerator, a ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate development, production, and equal access to COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines.

“WHO is in solidarity with the people of Brunei Darussalam and partners in welcoming the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX Facility,” said Head of Mission and WHO representative to Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Singapore Dr Lo Ying-Ru Jacqueline. “Vaccines save lives and the arrival of these vaccines will help protect the priority groups identified by Brunei – first and foremost health workers and other frontliners. Getting vaccinated, in combination with other proven public health measures, is a very important step for people to be protected against COVID-19.

UNICEF Representative to Malaysia and Special Representative to Brunei Darussalam Dr Rashed Mustafa Sarwar said “We welcome the arrival of the first batch of COVID-19 vaccine in Brunei as part of the COVAX Facility. We are grateful for the opportunity to work with the MoH and other partners to reach the people of Brunei with life-saving vaccines. We look forward to the next shipments, and a successful immunisation campaign. The arrival of vaccine in Brunei gives us hope that there is an end to the pandemic.”

Similar considerations for the use of “pooled” resources have been made before, particularly for procurement of medications by Brunei Darussalam and other countries in the region, and the COVAX Facility is an excellent example of the implementation of this concept.

As an addition to procurement through the COVAX Facility, the MoH will be procuring vaccines through bilateral arrangements as well. The COVID-19 Vaccine Technical Committee will ensure that all the vaccines that will be administered to the public have met the regulatory safety standards.