Dili, 11 Feb 2021 (Lusa) – The Timorese Government is waiting for further clarification of the efficiency and effectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccine, especially when it comes to its use in the older population, before approving the vaccination plan, said today the prime minister.
′′ The vaccine that the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends for East Timor is AstraZeneca, but we’ve seen in Europe some debates about the age groups it can be given “, Taur Matan Ruak told journalists.
′′ There are some doubts and so the Council of Ministers has not yet made the final decision. We continue to collect information from WHO to ensure the vaccine is adequate “, it considered.
Taur Matan Ruak, who spoke after his weekly meeting with the President of the Republic, Francisco Guterres Lu-Olo, said that ′′ generally the vaccine is adequate, but that we need to be sure about its efficiency and effectiveness “.
Lusa tried several times unsuccessfully to get a comment from the new World Health Organization (WHO) responsible in East Timor, Arvind Mathur.
In an interview with Lusa on Wednesday, Timorese Health Minister Odete Belo further assured that following a recommendation from the WHO, the plan submitted in the Council of Ministers predicts that the vaccine will also be given to people over 67 , getting excluded under 17 and pregnant women.
′′ The plan has a concrete statement that the vaccine can be given to over 67 years old “, it reiterated.
The issue of the age limit for vaccination with AstraZeneca has raised extensive debates, especially in Europe, with countries like Ireland, which decided not to innoculate patients over 70 or Germany not to inoculate over 65.
In some countries, the option was to use other vaccines, such as Pfizer and Moderna, for the elderly, even though this option seems to be excluded in the case of East Timor, since the country’s conditions are not compatible with the storage requirements of these vaccines.
At issue, rather than the efficacy or not of the vaccine for those age groups, is the question that there are still insufficient clinical trials to demonstrate their effectiveness in older people.
Odete Belo said the Government wants to start vaccination against covid-19 April 07, World Health Day, ensuring vaccines will be free and will cover both Timorese and foreigners.
The vaccination plan, which has been drawn up by a multidisciplinary technical team involving agency experts like the World Health Organization (WHO) was first presented to the Council of Ministers on Wednesday.
Even though early vaccines are expected in East Timor between late February and early March, Odete Belo told Lusa that before she starts vaccinating an information and awareness campaign is needed.
At the same time, it stressed, with the support of the WHO and Unicef, the logistics aspects of vaccination itself, including framework training and a ‘tracking’ system of vaccinated to ensure that they take both doses.
It is recalled that East Timor will receive the first 20 % of its vaccination needs through the Covax international fund, aimed at supporting countries with the most deficiencies and vulnerabilities.
In the case of East Timor, it will resort to the AstraZeneca vaccine for being considered ′′ the most appropriate vaccine ′′ for the country, given that it can be preserved in refrigerators, between two and eight degrees centigrade.
The indicative distribution map predicts that East Timor will receive 100.800 doses in the early stage.
The ruler explained that in the first group of 20 % of the population to be vaccinated, the priority will be for front line officials, especially in the land border area, for teams directly involved in combating covid-19 , over 67 years old and people with comorbility.
Hence, the first phase of vaccination, of the first 20 %, takes place from April 07 to June.
General coordinator of the covid-19 commission, Odete da Silva Viegas, said the estimate is that the initial 20 % – provided through Covax – cover 263 people, with about 39.450 matching front line teams and 65.750 people with chronic illnesses.
Around 105.200 correspond to people over 60 and the remaining 52.600 to people from a ′′ second front line “, like teachers, priests and others, he explained.
ASP // JMC
Lusa / End