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The Aussie construction company building vaccine trust in Pacific islands

Australian companies that work in developing countries are taking community engagement to the next level by supporting COVID-19 vaccination campaigns.

This has proved valuable in Pacific communities, where lockdowns have devastated local economies.

Increasing vaccine take-up in Papua New Guinea

Reeves Envico is a civil and building infrastructure company, based in Melbourne. It manages construction works across the Pacific region – including in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

Many of the remote communities where Reeves Envico works have been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. With limited public information, vaccine take-up has sometimes been slow.

In July and August, Reeves Envico worked with a local Papua New Guinea training company called Tok Street to encourage vaccine take up.

‘Tok Street is a locally owned business that had developed a vaccine-awareness program,’ says David Fair, Operations Manager, Reeves Envico. ‘We wanted to work with them. They knew how to dispel some of the myths that were common in rural Papua New Guinea.’

Reeves arranged for Tok Street to run consultation sessions for all its local workers. The success rate was extraordinary. Out of 52 personnel who attended, 44 workers chose to be vaccinated.

Reducing vaccine hesitancy in the Solomon Islands

In August, Reeves Envico took its proactive approach to the Solomon Islands.

‘We are building a multipurpose youth facility in Honiara,’ says Fair. ‘We started the conversation with tool-box meetings with our workers. This is where we discussed vaccines.’

Fair says the best move was to move the worker meetings to the vaccination centres at the capital, Honiara.

‘This is where doctors provided detailed information and encouraged the staff to receive their first dose of the Astra-Zeneca vaccine,’ he says.

Assisting take-up in Vanuatu

In Vanuatu, an Icon-Reeves partnership is building the new Cook and Tiroas Barracks in Port Vila and Luganville.

The partnership encouraged on-site workers to take a first and second dose of the Astra-Zeneca vaccine. Vehicles took workers to the vaccination centre. The initiative resulted in a 75% take up.

‘We feel it is important to support local health authorities,’ says Fair. ‘We seek to understand views and inform workers about the importance of COVID-19 vaccination. Our ultimate objective is to protect the communities we work in.’

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