224 vaccine refrigerators received

Two-hundred-and-twenty-four solar vaccine refrigerators will be distributed to health facilities around the country that have no electricity.

Unicef, in partnership with Gavi, is supporting PNG in ensuring that essential lifesaving vaccines are readily available in health facilities.

Health Minister Jelta Wong, on behalf of the government, received the 244 solar vaccine refrigerators and freezers in Port Moresby on the 5th of May.

The assistance is part of a larger support initiated by Gavi in 2020. At a cost of K14 million, the support involved the provision of 674 cold chain equipment to help boost PNG’s cold chain capacity for the safe storage of vaccines.

Unicef acting representative, Judith Bruno, said well-maintained cold chain equipment will ensure vaccine availability, potency and safety.

“And it will also improve the immunisation coverage and equity, reaching every children with our vaccine preventable disease cold chain facilities,” she stated. “And they are protected with and against the deadly diseases.”

In 2020, the government received an initial batch of 364 vaccine refrigerators and freezers from Gavi and Unicef. Bruno highlighted that the latest nationwide cold chain equipment inventory indicated that 83 percent of the cold chain system was in “fragile condition” and needed to be rehabilitated.

“And with the general support of our development donors and partners, especially Gavi, we have been able to support, together with WHO, the rehabilitation of the cold chain system in the country,” she outlined. “But this is not enough.”

Unicef hopes that the Health Department will also prioritise the maintenance of these equipment.

In addition to the 224 vaccine fridges and 520 temperature monitoring devices that come with them, the government will receive 98 more in July this year under Unicef and Gavi’s health system strengthening project.

(Health Minister Jelta Wong cutting the ribbon at the handover ceremony on May 5)

Carmella Gware