Australian experts working with our neighbours to support COVID-19 vaccination rollouts

Dr Padmasiri Eswara Aratchige

The National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) and the Australian Regional Immunisation Alliance (ARIA), in collaboration with the Australian Government’s Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security based at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), are supporting the COVID-19 vaccination rollout in the South East Asia and Pacific regions. As part of this program, partner countries can request different types of technical assistance depending on their needs.

In response to the latest request, Dr Padmasiri (Pad) Eswara Aratchige, a senior technical officer based at NCIRS, has been deployed to the Solomon Islands to support immunisation services delivery in the country.

Pad is a public health specialist with over 20 years of international experience in communicable diseases and immunisation field work. Before joining NCIRS, he worked as a medical officer with the World Health Organization (WHO) in the South-East Asia and Western Pacific regions. Pad has previously worked in the Pacific Island nations, including the Solomon Islands where he supported the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) in the country-wide rollout of rotavirus vaccines in early 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted routine immunisation programs in a number of Pacific island countries. As part of this deployment, Pad will work as an immunisation advisor supporting the MHMS in the continued rollout of both COVID-19 vaccines and routine vaccines in the Solomon Islands.

Dr Pad with Ministry of Health staff

Upon his arrival in the Solomon Islands, Pad said, “It is a privilege to be working in-country with the Ministry staff, collaborators from Australia and other partners to support the COVID-19 vaccination rollout and routine immunisation programs in the Solomon Islands.” NCIRS is Australia's national centre of excellence in immunisation research and surveillance, providing expert advice on all aspects of vaccine preventable diseases and other issues related to immunisation, to inform policy and planning for immunisation services.

NCIRS has played a key role in supporting Australia's COVID-19 response and vaccination strategy. NCIRS also hosts the Australian Regional Immunisation Alliance (ARIA), a consortium of more than 20 researchers and partner organisations that is providing technical and capacity-building support in the Indo-Pacific region, including for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Support for Pad’s deployment is provided through a partnership with the Australian Government's Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security (CHS) for the Australian Expert Technical Assistance Program for Regional COVID-19 Vaccine Access: Policy, Planning and Implementation (AETAP-PPI) as part of the Australian Government’s Vaccine Access and Health Security Initiative (VAHSI).