“They’re our family. They’re our friends. They’re our neighbors. They’re our partners,” Scott Morrison, Australia’s prime minister, said last week. “This is in Australia’s interests, and it is in our region’s interests,” he added.
Covax, a global health initiative designed to make access to inoculations more equal, began rolling out doses of vaccines to developing nations last month, and it has said it will deliver 588,000 to Papua New Guinea by June.
But in some cases, wealthier nations have failed to honor contracts, reducing the number of doses the initiative can buy, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director of the World Health Organization, said in a statement last month. He warned that the pandemic would not end until everyone was vaccinated.
“This is not a matter of charity,” he said. “It’s a matter of epidemiology.”
Until then, officials in Papua New Guinea will be left to combat not only the virus itself but also a tide of misinformation about the pathogen and the vaccines, carried largely through social media channels.
“Even for the educated health worker, it’s causing a lot of doubt,” said Dr. Nou, the Port Moresby-based physician, who has conducted a survey of health care workers’ views about the pandemic.
Some public health experts said they worried that the redirection of resources to fight the coronavirus could come at a lethal cost to those with other severe health conditions, such malaria or tuberculosis. Papua New Guinea has some of the highest rates of tuberculosis in the world.
“It’s not good enough to just respond to Covid and then have someone die of another cause,” said Dr. Suman Majumdar, an infectious diseases specialist at the Burnet Institute, an Australian medical research facility. “We have feared the worst,” he added, “and this is happening.”