Timor-Leste begins national vaccination plan against COVID-19

Wed. 07 of April of 2021, 16:10h

Today, April 7th, 2021, on the day of World Health Day, Timor-Leste began the national vaccination plan against COVID-19, with the Prime-Minister, Taur Matan Ruak, to be the first citizen in the country to receive the first dose of the vaccine.

The ceremony took place at the Formosa Health Centre, in Dili, and, in addition to the Head of Government, the president of the National Parliament,  Aniceto Longuinhos Guterres Lopes, the President of the Court of Appeal, Deolindo dos Santos, the Former President of the Republic, José Ramos-Horta, the Archbishop of Dili, D. Virgílio do Carmo da Silva and members of the Government were also vaccinated.

This first batch of 24,000 AstraZeneca vaccines against COVID-19 is included in a vaccine package that will cover 20% of the population, under the COVAX Mechanism. The Government is currently putting all efforts together to acquire the remaining 80%, in order to meet the goal of immunizing the entire population by the end of 2021.

According to the national vaccination plan against COVID-19, the next to be vaccinated will be the frontline staff and the elderly with comorbidities.

The Prime-Minister, in his speech at the opening ceremony, began by stressing the national “great effort”, for almost a year”, in the fight against COVID-19, having acknowledged and thanked “the participation and contribution of the World Health Organization, of UNICEF, of the Embassies present here, of the friendly countries, which, together with Timor-Leste, have been doing a great job to prevent the situation of COVID-19 in the country from getting out of our control”.

"From December, despite our efforts, cases in Timor-Leste have started to increase rapidly and there are two factors that contributed greatly to this”, the first one, “the drastic increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in neighbouring Indonesia, especially in NTT [Nusa Tenggara Timur - Indonesian Province of Sonda Oriental]  and the second factor, the illegal border crossings that brought this virus in to Timor-Leste”. This led to the transition “from the initial phase of importation to the second phase of local contagion and today, with the natural disasters thar just occurred, we may say that we are probably already in the community transmission phase”.

Taur Matan Ruak stated that “Timor-Leste has set a goal that by the end of 2021 we have vaccinated all our citizens” noting that “no one is free until we are all free from COVID-19” and “to get rid of COVID-19, there is only one way, and that is the vaccine”.

“For the first phase we will have 20%, of which the first shipment has already arrived, provided to us through the United Nations system, COVAX”, and the Prime-Minister assumed that he has formally requested support from Australia and China to meet this challenge, and said that the Government has allocated USD$ 35 million, in the amendment budget, for the purchase of vaccines.

He also recalled that “right now, in our country, we face not only the situation of COVID-19, but we also have natural disasters, where the damage exceeds USD$ 100 million, damage that  have affected the population and public infrastructure and that have already caused the death of more than 30 people”.

The Head of Government appealed “to all international partners present in Timor-Leste and to the whole community to work together, to put differences aside and look at the citizens”. He also stressed that the Timorese people “are a fighting People, a warrior People and it is in difficult times that they unite and become stronger”.