'Big problem': Scary Covid statistic for Australia's nearest neighbour

·3-min read

Australia’s closest neighbour is grappling with a huge surge in Delta cases as misinformation about the Covid-19 vaccine causes fierce hesitancy and resistance. 

Papua New Guinea (PNG) has the lowest vaccination rate in the western Pacific region, with just 1.7 per cent of the adult population fully immunised against the deadly virus.

A health worker prepares to take a swab from a man to test for Covid-19 coronavirus outside a makeshift clinic in a sports stadium in Port Moresby on April 1, 2021. Source: Getty Images
The deadly Delta variant is running rampant across PNG where there are high rates of vaccine hesitancy. Source: Getty Images

Doctors are struggling to cope with an influx of patients, with reports Port Moresby General Hospital is so overwhelmed that people are being treated in tents set up in the car park.

Dr Chris McCall from Australian Doctors International said the hospital he is based in in the country’s western province has been forced to close twice because of inadequate resources and facilities.

“They had a big problem that the influx of patients is actually infecting other patients and staff. It’s a similar situation in other places as well,” he told the ABC RN Breakfast program.

Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby, the national capital. Source: Getty Images
The countrty's capital of Port Moresby has been hit hard by the escalating outbreak. Source: Getty Images

Misinformation fuelling vaccine resistance 

Dr McCall, who has been travelling to remote areas to administer the Covid jab, said misinformation is a major issue.

“I have been asked the most incredible things. Many people believe if you have the vaccine you’re going to die in three years. You wouldn’t believe the number of people I've had to tell that there is actually no evidence whatsoever to support that,” he said.

Another rumour circulating across remote areas is that the jab will make your arm magnetic.

Others believe they will “go to hell” if they roll up their sleeves.

“In remote parts of Papua News Guinea a lot of people still believe in sorcery. They are very religious people and take this stuff very seriously and some of it sounds very convincing.”

Royal Australian Air Force personal are seen loading COVID-19 vaccines and humanitarian supplies onto a C-17A Globemaster at RAAF Base Amberley, west of Brisbane, Tuesday, March 23, 2021. Source: AAP
In March, the federal Government sent supplies of vaccines, testing kids and funds for health programs to PNG. Source: AAP

Dr McCall said many people are also hesitant to get tested and the official figures don’t represent “what’s happening on the ground”.

“People don’t really understand what Covid-19 is,” he explained.

“And they are very scared by it.”

He added many believe Covid is a myth and it’s hard to convince people there is a problem.

“PNG has a lot of other chronic diseases, there is a lot of malaria, and this is just kind of another health problem for them and also because the symptoms are so vague.”

Dr McCall believes the only solution is for local leaders to step up and convince their community to get the jab.

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