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Governor Lolo establishes COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has established the government’s COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force, charged with planning the distribution of a vaccine for the deadly coronavirus once it becomes available.

The governor announced during Wednesday’s cabinet meeting at the Gov. H. Rex Lee Auditorium, the establishment of the vaccine task force, which is co-chaired by LBJ Medical Center Chief Executive Officer, Faumuina John Faumuina and Health director Motusa Tuileama Nua.

“We join our nation in celebrating the projected availability of the first COVID-19 vaccine possibly available some time in December,” said Lolo, in a Nov. 17th memo, establishing the task force.

He noted that the assumption is being made that the initial distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine will be determined on a percentage of the total population.

“Accordingly, it behooves us to prepare accordingly to ensure that we are ready for immediate distribution of COVID-19 vaccine," he said in the memo addressed to Faumuina and Motusa.

The governor explained that the vaccine Distribution Plan should include the required infrastructure to handle the storage of the vaccine, priority distribution policies, method of distribution, centers to distribute the vaccine, post-follow up protocols to facilitate tracking of those vaccinated, and other policies to ensure equitable and efficient distribution of the vaccine.

“Given the time limitations, I am requesting that you set up a meeting with me to avail the opportunity to you and the membership to raise questions with me to provide clarity on what is expected of the task force,” Lolo informed Faumuina and Motusa.

Besides the co-chairs, there are 17 other members:

•    seven from DoH — Dr. Saipale Fuimaono, Clinical director; Dr. Cecilia Alailima and Dr. Fiona Trail - both are COVID-19 Quarantine Sites physicians; Dr. Monita Adip, COVID-19 Airport Medical Operations; Dr. Ronald Yip, COVID-19 Seaport Medical Operations; Dr. Aifili John Tufa, Senior Epidemiologist; and DoH Pharmacist, Dr. Francine Amoa

•    seven from LBJ — Chief Medical Officer Dr. Iotamo Saleapaga; Chief of Internal Medicine; Dr. Amor Gonzales, Chief of Laboratory Services; Chief Pharmacist Dr. Evelyn Ah-Hing Fa’ai’uaso; CMS Liaison Officer Mrs. Toaga Seumalo; Director of Nursing Simamao Tuato’o; Infection Preventionist Sharmain Mageo

•    Dr. Fred Uhrle Jr — Chief Medical Officer — local Veterans clinic

•    Attorney General Mitzie Jessop Ta’ase

•    ASG Coronavirus Task Force chairman Iulogologo Joseph Pereira

The Associated Press reported early this week that two vaccine makers have said that preliminary results from their late-stage studies suggest their experimental vaccines for the virus are strongly protective.  Moderna said its vaccine appears nearly 95% effective. This comes on the heels of Pfizer’s announcement that its shot appeared similarly effective.

U.S. health officials said a coronavirus vaccine would need to be at least 50% effective before they would consider approving it for use, according to the AP.