“Vaccination is our best hope” – Dr Pafilio Tangitau working on the frontlines in Tonga

Health workers are among the first to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in Tonga

Sheenal Sharma
Dr Pafilio Tangitau, working in the Emergency Department at Vaiola Hospital in Nuku’alofa, Tonga.
Pafilio Tangitau
29 April 2021

“Vaccination is our best hope” says Dr Pafilio Tangitau.

Dr Pafilio, a frontline health worker in Tonga, works in the Emergency Department at Vaiola Hospital in Nuku’alofa.

He was one of the first health workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, after Tonga received its first batch of 24,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses on 31 March, becoming the third country in the Pacific to receive vaccines through COVAX, a global initiative ensuring equitable access for all.

“I have received my first shot of the vaccine and all I felt was a slight pinch, which is the same for any injection or vaccine you receive."

Dr Pafilio, who is one of the thousands of frontline health workers responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in the Pacific says, “As part of our preparation, together with our Head of Department, we developed responses for various scenarios in the event of community transmission.”

While sharing his own personal experience, Dr Pafilio recalls, “There was a lot of uncertainty as it was a new virus and as health workers, we had no previous experience or cases we could learn from. As the number of fatalities and positive cases increased in other countries across the world, it made us anxious.”

Dr Pafilio says that careful planning, in partnership with the Ministry and outside of the health system, increased his confidence and it was reassuring to know they were well prepared to respond if Tonga recorded positive COVID-19 cases.

“I am grateful that one year on since the virus started spreading across the world, our country is still COVID-19 free.”

Prior to the arrival of vaccines in Tonga, UNICEF, together with the World Health Organization (WHO) supported the Ministry of Health in training its health workers, in preparation for the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccines to ensure health workers had the training and support they needed to administer COVID-19 vaccines.

Tonga launched its COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign on 15 April, with Her Royal Highness Princess Salote Mafile'o Pilolevu Tuita and the Prime Minister Hon. Rev Dr Pohiva Tu'i'onetoa leading the national vaccination rollout by receiving their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.



Through the COVAX Facility, UNICEF is proud to be leading in the supply and delivery of the COVID-19 vaccines in Tonga and the Pacific to ensure health workers like Dr Pafilio are protected against COVID-19.