Ryan Dagur, Jakarta – Timor-Leste's cabinet ministers are personally spearheading a renewed mass vaccination campaign targeting more than 80 percent of the population in a bid to overcome widespread doubts over vaccines.
Ministers are campaigning in all the country's 13 municipalities for the drive which began at the start of this month, the government said on Oct. 4. Some ministers are even administering vaccines themselves.
"The aim is to increase the percentage of the population being vaccinated," the government said.
As of Oct. 4, some 60 percent of the adult population had received their first dose and 37 percent were fully vaccinated despite vaccines being available for many months now.
Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak said the government was still finding it difficult to get people to go to vaccination centers.
However, the government is committed to continuing its national vaccination campaign to achieve the target of 80 percent of the population being vaccinated by the end of this year, he said.
He said the country has sufficient vaccine stocks of more than a million doses provided by the World Health Organization's COVAX scheme, Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and Portugal.
He said vaccines for children aged 12 to 17 will arrive soon.
Franciscan Father Gregorius Febryanto Wendardins Ranus, based in Manufahi municipality, said people's reluctance to have the vaccine is because some feel it's a government trick, while others are apathetic.
"Such suspicions still exist even though this pandemic has been around for quite a while. Because of that, they don't really care if they are vaccinated or not," he told UCA News.
Another factor is safety fears after a woman in Ermera municipality died after being vaccinated.
"Although it can be explained how she died, the news added fuel to people's existing doubts. I think that's one of the reasons why Ermera has the lowest vaccination rate," Father Ranus said.
With only 32.8 percent of its residents receiving first jabs, Ermera has been targeted for the new campaign led by Health Minister Odete Maria Freitas Belo and Minister of State Administration Miguel Pereira de Carvalho.
In the past month, Timor-Leste has seen a decline in the number of daily Covid-19 cases, of which 549 are active, according to government figures. Since the pandemic began, the country has recorded 19,592 cases and 118 deaths.