New Chamber of Commerce leader makes heartfelt plea for vaccinations
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — While American Samoa’s vaccination rate for COVID-19 has increased slightly compared to last week, Health Department personnel and other government officials continue to urge those not yet vaccinated to do so, with the vaccination clinic at the A.P. Lutali Executive Office Building (EOB) open today and tomorrow.
DoH’s latest health advisory, issued Aug. 17th, states that to date, 55.7% of American Samoa’s total population are now fully vaccinated with COVID-19 vaccines, with the goal set at 80% or higher.
The continued push for vaccinations comes as the COVID-19 Task Force is planning to resume commercial flights between Honolulu and Pago Pago on Sept. 13th. Even more pressing now for local officials is the delta variant of COVID that is spreading across the U.S — including in Hawaii — at an alarming rate, infecting many who are not vaccinated.
At last week’s COVID-19 Task Force news conference, incoming American Samoa Chamber of Commerce chairperson, Mrs. Louisa Kuaea, joined the call for the territory’s eligible population to get vaccinated. And she spoke not only as a business leader but also as a COVID-19 survivor in delivering her verbal message to the community.
Kuaea, who was among the passengers on the final repatriation flight or repat 8, said she contracted the virus in January. She was unvaccinated “and that was not by choice — that was because they had prioritized the distribution of the vaccine at that time. So I was not eligible yet.”
“But unfortunately my family — my husband, daughter and my sister — we all contracted it. And we had a really horrible case of it,” she said. “So bad, that I almost felt that I was going to die. And that I’ve never been that sick in my life.”
“I know that the coronavirus exists. I also know that there’s a way to protect yourself from getting the virus, through vaccination. And it’s not full proof, but it is a better alternative than getting the virus,” she pointed out.
Kuaea recalled U.S President Joe Biden saying about the virus that it has now become the “pandemic of the unvaccinated and I believe that.”
For those who are reluctant or not sure about getting vaccinated, she encourage those individuals to read up on data and information posted on the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov) and “think about your children” so they are protected.
Kuaea recalled the later part of 2019 during the measles outbreak in Samoa where the Independent State had experienced many deaths of infants and children. “I’m almost certain that, any of those parents who lost a child at that time, would have had their child vaccinated. It is a way of expressing your love and showing protection to your families,” she said.
While American Samoa had confirmed measles cases, it was not as deadly as neighboring Samoa, where the government is now pushing for full COVID-19 vaccination throughout the population. And the 200 workers in Samoa recruited by StarKist Samoa are all required to be fully vaccinated before they are allowed to enter the territory, with the first 100-workers arriving over a four-day period last week.
Besides the EOB site for the COVID-19 vaccine, DoH said the Tafuna Prenatal Clinic as well as the DoH Clinics in Amouli, Leone and Fagaalu Well Baby clinic are the other sites for the shots on Friday from 8a.m. to 12noon.
Anyone needing transportation to the sites, look out for the free vaccination buses with COVID-19 banners displayed on them. For more information on COVID or vaccination sites, call DoH hotline at 219.