ASG sets up big money raffles to encourage people to get vaccinated
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — While American Samoa’s vaccination numbers are still not at the level that health authorities say would adequately protect the territory if COVID-19 were to make its way here, the American Samoa Government (ASG) is looking at other ideas to encourage people to get vaccinated.
This time, according to the chairman of the COVID-19 Task Force, Lt. Gov. Talauega Eleasalo Ale during a press conference with members of the media this week, ASG is planning a major raffle with monetary prizes as an incentive to get people to vaccinate against COVID-19.
While details of the raffle are being finalized before they are announced, it was mentioned during the Cabinet meeting last week that $250,000 will be spent on the raffle.
“Only those who are already vaccinated will be eligible for the raffle and if you want to be part of the raffle, get your shots and you will be part of the raffle. This is one of the benefits of being vaccinated. If you want to protect your family and the whole community, get vaccinated and get some money for you and your family,” the chairman said.
The primary focus of the hour-long press conference was to increase the COVID-19 vaccination rate, which, according to the territory’s health experts, is still trailing what is needed to achieve herd immunity. Herd immunity, as explained by the Task Force, will be reached when enough of the population is immunized with the COVID-19 vaccine in order to protect those that are not vaccinated.
The eligible population who can receive the vaccine numbers 36,917 and as of June 28th, 68.5% had received at least one shot while 60.6% had received both shots or were fully immunized.
All of the speakers at the press conference, which included Secretary of Samoan Affairs Mauga Tasi Asuega, and LBJ Hospital CEO Faumuina John Faumuina urged those who haven’t been vaccinated to do so. Dr. Aifili John Tufa, Chief Epidemiologist at the Dept. of Health said herd immunity can only be achieved if the fully vaccinated coverage reaches 80%.
He said in Fiji where the more serious Delta variant of the virus is now spreading rapidly, which has resulted in the country locking down after many deaths, they need the amount of vaccine that American Samoa has in abundance. However, Fiji has an insufficient supply because of the limited quantities being sent by donors like the World Health Organization.
He said vaccination is the difference between what’s happening in Fiji and another country where the Delta variant has spread – Israel.
Dr. Tufa said that the different between the two countries is that, only 30% of Fiji’s population is vaccinated, compared to more than 80% of Israel’s population, which is vaccinated.
Meanwhile UCEDD, the University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities is helping with the vaccination drive through a Fourth of July bash billed as “Be a Hero and Vaccinate.”
It offers great prizes like the latest in electronic video games. The event takes place this Saturday at Lions Park and features a lot of fun things for the family but especially for the 12 to 30 year olds, one of the targeted groups for COVID-19 vaccinations.
For members of the Seventh-day Adventist church who are already vaccinated and want to join the raffles set for tomorrow, they can pick up their numbers today, Friday, July 2nd at the UCEDD office at Malaeimi, next to the ASCC compound before they join the show later on Saturday evening.
END OF QUARANTINE IN HAWAII
Once repatriation flights end and Hawaiian Airlines resumes commercial service to American Samoa, the COVID-19 Task Force is considering using the same system and protocols that the state of Hawai’i has adopted for travelers entering the territory.
This system would require travelers to register via a website and await approval before entering the territory. This would also mean an end for the mandatory quarantine in Honolulu.
Talauega said at this week’s press conference that the committee is close to finalizing the arrangements and should be making an announcement soon.
He said anyone wishing to travel to the territory will be required to register on a website. This will allow American Samoa Government (ASG) officials to screen travelers for eligibility before they pay their fares to Hawaiian Air and are allowed to board flights from Honolulu to Pago Pago.
Talauega said the committee is considering beginning with just two Hawaiian Airlines flights per month so that they can review and make adjustments on the process.
The dates of the last two repatriation flights are still July 9th and 29th. Due to high demand from residents needing to go off island for medical treatment, the Task Force has arranged another medical charter for July 22nd. This flight will not bring in any travelers from Honolulu but will travel here empty for the purpose of transporting residents off-island.
He said that this is a good opportunity for our people especially those who want to go off island for medical treatment.
The July 9th flight will be the first to carry a service dog. The chairman pointed out that the delay in meeting the needs of certain travelers with service animals was because of the state of Hawai’i’s requirements and restrictions by the hotel quarantine site in Honolulu. A local resident with a disability has filed a suit against ASG because she has not been able to get approval from the Task Force to travel with her service dog.
VACCINATIONS FOR CHILDREN 12-15 YEARS OLD
The vaccination working group continues with vaccinations for children ages 12-15 years old as approved by the FDA for emergency use authorization, which started also in May of this year.
For this coming Saturday, July 3rd, 2021, vaccinations will be administered at the Manumalo Baptist School gym in Malaeimi and Nuuuli Vo-Tech High School gym in Tafuna. Dr. Amoa reminded all parents to please be prepared with your child’s hospital number card and the child’s identification. For those who need their second shot, don’t forget to bring your first vaccination card to confirm that you already had your first vaccination.
As of yesterday, media reported in Fiji that there are now 24 deaths due to COVID-19 in Fiji, with 22 of these deaths during the outbreak that started in April of this year. It was also reported that the seven-day average of new cases per day, has increased to 285 cases per day.