Lt Gov does not mince words about need to get COVID-19 vaccination
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — During last week’s cabinet meeting, Lt. Gov. Talauega Eleasalo Ale strongly urged Executive Branch directors to get their employees vaccinated for COVID-19, as mandated by Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga, who has given a deadline of Dec. 15th for the Executive Branch workforce to be fully vaccinated.
Talauega, who is also the COVID-19 Task Force chairman, said that people who opposed the vaccine “are not thinking about the rest of the island” and encouraged cabinet directors to urge residents to get vaccinated.
The Human Resources Department presentation during the cabinet meeting shows that nearly 3,000 of the total 5,091 executive branch workforce has not been fully vaccinated. Talauega said he feels saddened that many employees are not vaccinated, even as it is a condition of employment with ASG.
“The Governor does not want to force anyone to do any of this. The Governor does not force the employees to come work for the American Samoa Government,” Talauega is quoted in a Governor’s Office press release based on the Nov. 29th cabinet meeting.
“But if you choose to work for the American Samoa Government, then you will have to follow the rules. Working for the American Samoa Government is not a right, it is a privilege. We are privileged to have the opportunity to serve the people of American Samoa,” he said.
“Directors, this mandate falls upon you. If you have listed your top three priorities moving forward, getting your employees vaccinated should be number one. Make sure you are personally involved with identifying your employees and getting them vaccinated. We need your help,” he said.
The COVID-19 Task Force chair noted that the Health director has “asked what the process is to request exemptions for two reasons: medical or religious beliefs. You have to qualify.”
“The requests that I have seen are incomplete. Just saying you want to be exempt with no reason fails to meet the requirements. Forms will be available to apply for exemption,” he said. “And if approved, then you have to follow the rules for reasonable accommodations. These accommodations will be to let you wear masks or exempt you from public gatherings.”
Talauega says there is now a “growing population of those opposing vaccinations. Some say it's because of their religious beliefs, but others say they are exercising their individual rights.”
“I got my vaccination to make sure I would not be the cause of killing someone else. I was thinking about my elders and my kids. But, people that oppose the vaccine are not thinking about the rest of the island,” he said.
“They do not think about others. They are thinking only internally. They think about me, it's all about me,” he said. “My individual rights, my freedoms, and nobody can tell me what to do. We need to educate others that it is not only a personal choice. We need to do it to protect our kids and our island.”
“The virus is continuing to mutate and grow, and we will need to continue being vigilant. Please encourage more of our citizens to get vaccinated,” he added.
(Source: Governor’s Office press release)