The CEO of Australian Doctors International, Mimi Zilliacus is now in Papua New Guinea and will quarantine in Port Moresby for a week before joining the on ground team of Australian Doctors who are tasked with assisting in Covid-19 vaccinations in the New Ireland Province.
Australian Doctors International provides volunteer doctors to Papua New Guinea to assist with in service training and helping to build healthcare capacity for the people of Papua New Guinea.
Papua New Guinea is Australia’s nearest neighbour and only a 5 minute dingy trip from the Torres Strait.
As of 9 July, the country had counted a total of 17,340 Covid-19 cases with 179 known deaths although experts believe the figures are likely to be far higher. To date there have only been just over 136,000 Covid tests conducted over the entire course of the pandemic.
One of the greatest challenges that the team at Australian Doctors have to overcome is vaccine hesitancy. Misinformation abounds including:
- People are avoiding being tested because they are worried that they will be locked up when they hear the word isolation
- Other common misconceptions include the belief that Covid-19 only affects people living in cities and towns, and not people in rural areas.
- Many Papua New Guineans believe they are “genetically immune” to Covid-19.
- “Its just like flu, when I get flu symptoms which is similar to Covid-19, I just steam myself with herbal leaves and get better,”
Australian Doctors International will roll out a public health education program to accompany the vaccination program.
“When messages are not communicated properly it increases the public health risk and puts lives at risk,” she said.