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COVID-19 vaccinations, vax mandates and false claims are focus of House hearing

Attorney General Fainu’ulelei Falefatu Ala’ilima Utu

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Tuala-uta Representative Larry Sanitoa has advised the Attorney General Fainu’ulelei Falefatu Ala’ilima Utu to take a close look at claims spread by people who refuse to get vaccinated that local people have died from the COVID-19 vaccination. Sanitoa’s comment was directed to Fainu’ulelei during the House Health committee hearing this past Wednesday morning, which discussed the update on the vaccination campaign spearheaded by the Health Department and the COVID-19 Task Force.

Sanitoa said he understands people have their constitutional rights, however, spreading misinformation that local people have died from the COVID-19 vaccination, he said, “then we’re looking at a big problem because this is clearly defamation of character.”

He further stated that if any person wants to exercise his or her rights against the vaccine, that’s their own personal decision to make, but when it comes down to this situation of giving out false and unfounded information, then something needs to be done.

Sanitoa said he doesn’t want the American Samoa Government (ASG) to take the next step including the legal side of this situation, however, in an effort to protect the territory from situations like this, something needs to be done to make this stop.

Prior to Sanito’a comments, Rep. Lavea Fatulegaee Palepoi Mauga questioned Fainu’ulelei and the Director of the Department of Health, Motusa Tuileama Nua if they are keeping records of private sector employees as to whether or not they are fully vaccinated.

Lavea said it does not sit well with him that the Task Force is only pushing government employees to get vaccinated but is turning a blind eye to the private sector.

Fainuulelei said many in the private sector are urging all of their employees to get vaccinated, and used as an example, the cannery, which has instructed all of their employees to get vaccinated.

Lavea asked Fainuulelei again if any members of the community have contacted him about their rights, while at the same time ASG is enforcing the governor’s order requiring all ASG employees to provide proof of full vaccination.

When asked if there have been any local deaths as the result of the vaccine, Motusa said no.

Motusa explained that since the COVID-19 vaccination has been available for our adult population in December 2020, 11-16 years old in November 2021, and recently the 5-10 years old in November 2021, no one has died as a result of COVID-19 vaccination.

He further explained that the Department of Health has a clear process that reports any adverse effects from any medication to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). There is also a medical staff Morbidity and Mortality Review Committee that reviews all deaths at the hospital.

The purpose of this committee is to confirm causes of death and identify areas of improvements in the patient’s care. Both these processes have not reported any death at LBJ hospital related to or caused by the COVID-19 shots.

Motusa said the DoH wants to assure the public that COVID-19 shots are safe and protect us, our family, and our community from the severe consequences of COVID -19. “Our monitoring and reporting system in place is updated daily and has the latest and updated information of any COVID-19 vaccination related events.”

According to the Task Force, before someone takes the vaccine, health officials explain to that person the affects a person can experience from vaccination. Health officials also encourage everyone to see a doctor right away if they observe these symptoms.

The Task Force further explained to the House committee that there were people who experienced minor affects from the vaccine and a report was filed to the CDC about these incidents.

For ASG employees who refuse to take the vaccine, Fainu’ulelei explained that these people are now taking annual leave as required by the declaration issued by Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga earlier this month.

A new vaccine mandate issued by Gov. Lemanu requires ASG employees to provide proof of full vaccination for COVID-19 to the Director of Human Resources by January 14 — which was last Friday.

Failure to comply means the employee will not be allowed to work in any position inside a government-owned or leased building or in a government-owned or leased vehicle or any worksite or other location where they will be in the presence of other ASG employees or members of the public, in the course of their employment.

Any employee who does not comply shall be placed on leave by their department or agency and the Director of Human Resources until the employee provides proof of vaccination or until the emergency is over.

Employees may use their accumulated annual or sick leave while they are on leave. Otherwise, the leave shall be without pay.

Two ASG employees confirmed to Samoa News that they took annual leave last Friday, Jan. 14 because they’re part of a group of employees who refuse to get vaccinated.


Last year, a local group called “Amerika Samoa Ala Mai” (ASAM) held three protests in several locations in an effort to deliver their message.

According to the group’s spokesperson, Tauva Esera-Mauga, they’re not against COVID-19 vaccinations, but they are against the mandate for ASG workers to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

Esera-Mauga explained to Samoa News during an interview last year that they want people to make their own decisions about COVID-19 vaccinations instead of being forced to take the shots. She said health authorities should inform and answer questions from the public about all aspects of COVID-19 vaccines including their negative impacts on the health of people.

She claimed that several people have died locally, some very young, after getting the COVID-19 shots. (Samoa News should point out that no proof was offered to verify this claim by Esera-Mauga.)

Amerika Samoa Ala Mai is dead against the mandate by the Governor for ASG workers to get vaccinated as a condition of keeping their jobs or for joining the ASG workforce for new hires.

Esera-Mauga believes everyone knows this violates their individual rights but they’re afraid to speak up.