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Governor’s office releases protocols for its employee vax mandate

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Unvaccinated and non exempted will be informed by letter of procedures

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — In a news release yesterday, the Governor’s Office explained the process involved for Executive Branch employees who are not fully vaccinated by Jan. 14 — as mandated by Gov. Lemamu Peleti Palepoi Sialega Mauga.

The release states that on Jan. 12 — today, two days from Jan. 14 — Human Resources Department agents — responsible for the task — must complete verifying department/ agency reports.

Departments and agencies will be given a list of their employees who haven't had a shot, or completed full vaccination; nor applied or requested an exemption with DHR.

Provisions of the current COVID-19 declaration state that DHR shall notify departments and agency directors of any employees who have failed to provide proof of a full course of vaccination without having applied for and been granted an exemption or accommodation.

The Governor’s Office news release also said that at 8a.m. on Jan. 14 DHR responsible agents will filter and identify ALL employees who have failed to provide proof of full vaccination nor applied for exemption or been granted an accommodation with DHR.

Additionally, by the end of business on Jan. 14, letters from the DHR director with the List of Unvaccinated Employees attached, will go out to departments and agencies to: inform them of the employee(s) listed and to advise that those employee(s) identified and listed need to comply with the following procedures:

•           Take leave — sick or annual — until they exhaust all — with pay or without pay based on their leave accumulation;

•           After they exhaust all leave and still are not vaccinated, suspension without pay will be in effect for thirty days or however long decided by the directors; and

•           When the suspension is over and there is still no vaccination, termination of employment will be in effect.

The news release notes that: “Dealing with suspension and termination must be unalike regarding employment statuses for employees i.e career service, or temporary, etc.”

At last Friday’s cabinet meeting, DHR director Lynn Pulou-Alaimalo provided an update of the Executive Branch employees COVID-19 vaccination mandate and also provided a summary of the process that will be carried out on Jan. 14, which is the mandatory date that the governor has given employees to be fully vaccinated.

A COVID-19 Task Force news release following the Dec. 27 meeting, shows a total of 5,071 Executive Branch employees, according to the DHR report at the time.

Pulou-Alaimalo’s report at last Friday’s cabinet meeting shows a slightly lower number of employees. She said that of the total number of 5,056 employees, “we were able to verify” as of 8a.m. last Friday, 3,908 vaccination cards that were turned in by departments and agencies.

Partial vaccination so far — waiting for second dose are 154 employees. For no-vaccination, DHR records has a total of 38, those who “may be undecided or just don’t want to get the shot,” she said.

“We have exemption requests of 44 employees, [and] pending review with our legal counsel and the panel of those who are reviewing exemption for the medical disability as well as the sincerely held religious beliefs,” she said.

Additionally, DHR is waiting reports from departments and agencies for 904 employees.

(Samoa News should point out that the math points to a difference of 8 employees unaccounted for from the total number of 5,056 employees.)

Pulou-Alaimalo also shared DHR’s plan and process in carrying out the vaccination mandate with letters going out to directors and employees who have not provided proof of being fully vaccinated or exempted from the mandate.

She said the employee would be informed that “if we don’t have a copy of the vaccination card as well as an approved exemption request form, you will be put on paid leave.”

And after the Martin Luther King Jr., holiday next week Monday, the affected employees “are not to return to work until we receive a copy of the approved vaccination card with proof of two shots as well as an approved exemption request,” she emphasized.

She said that the DHR board continues to review all exemption requests and noted issues encountered with exemption requests.

She said directors should thoroughly brief employees that “when you’re coming in to fill out the affidavit” for the exemption request, “make sure you have justification” especially on “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

She said many requests have been notarized — with the explanation that the employee’s “faifeau” asked to be exempted from vaccination. She said this is not justification for the exemption.

“You have to fill out the entire form. You have to briefly explain further on religious beliefs,” she said and pointed to an example shared by physicians.

If the person’s religious belief is against consumption of pork, and one of the ingredients is made from pork then — that is a “good justification of the exemption,” she said.


Pulou-Alaimalo said that DHR has also received vaccination reports from ASG semi-autonomous agencies, which decided to turn in to DHR their vaccination records — such as the American Samoa Shipyard Service Authority, with 38 employees and DHR was able to verify vaccination cards for all these employees.

ASPA also provided their vaccination report. “We do have numbers for semi-autonomous agencies but the accountability of employees of each authority, is the primary role of the HR manager for that semi-autonomous agency,” she said.