Task Force members urged to educate the public on importance of COVID vaccination
PAGO PAGO, American Samoa — At the latest Task Force meeting held at the Department of Homeland Security Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at Tafuna yesterday, Task Force Chair Lt. Governor Talauega E.V. Ale noted that the Task Force has members both in the government and private sectors and in the medical community who can best provide answers to the public about why getting vaccinated is not only beneficial for them but for the whole of American Samoa and they have been urged to serve as spokesmen for the Task Force by starting the conversation with residents about the importance of getting a COVID-19 vaccination..
Talauega, who is also the Governor’s Authorized Representative (GAR), said such public outreach would be at the top of outreach programs currently carried out by the Department of Health and it should be an ongoing effort not only in government, but also in businesses, schools, community groups and even on social media. He added that Task Force members should be able to have discussions with their friends, coworkers, acquaintances and even those who have some public hesitation about the vaccine.
DOH has been conducting outreaches in schools, businesses and government agencies and they’ve also been looking at adding more vaccination sites to reach as many people as possible. (See Community Briefs in today’s issue)
The main message the Task Force wants the public to know is that all COVID-19 vaccines have shown to be highly effective at preventing COVID-19 and getting vaccinated yourself may also protect people around you, especially those at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
As more and more residents get vaccinated, the Task Force is discussing ways aimed at changing restrictions and travel policies for American Samoa.
Doctors and health professionals at the LBJ Hospital, Department of Health and the VA who are on the Task Force regularly meet to discuss new CDC guidelines and other discoveries relating to COVID. They then provide their medical recommendations to the Task Force.
Talauega pointed out that it is Gov. Lemanu Peleti Palepoi Sialega Mauga who ultimately makes the final decision should the Task Force recommend to change travel policies such as the quarantine days for repatriation flights or other restrictions following favorable vaccination numbers in American Samoa.
Director of the VA Clinic and member of the Task Force Dr. Fred Uhrle noted that the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen are now available in the Territory and safe. He said the bottom line is: all three vaccines protect against the COVID and have saved lives.
“No one has died [from taking] any of the three vaccines, no serious illnesses have happened with any of these three when taking the shot,” he told the meeting of the Task Force. “Everyone here is going to be a spokesman for the Task Force and we need to relay that [to the public] when we are talking about vaccination.”
The latest data from the Department of Health (DOH) shows that as of April 5th, a total of 18,315 or 55.2% of American Samoa’s population eligible to get vaccinated have had at least one shot. Of this number, 14,198 eligible residents or 42.8% have completed their two-shot vaccination or are now considered fully vaccinated.
The older age groups — those in the 41-50 years; 51-60 years; and 61 and older population — continue to dominate vaccination numbers with those completing two-shots now close to 60% for each age category.
For the younger age groups, 2,935 people ages 31-40 or 55.7% have completed at least one shot. Of that, 2,182 or 41.4% are now fully vaccinated.
They are followed by the 16-20 year old category — with 1,620 or 35.9% getting at least one shot. 1,163 or 25.8% have completed their two-shot vaccination.
For the 21-30 age group, 2,652 or 34.7% have gotten at least one shot. Of that number, 1,863 or 24.4% have completed both shots.
To find out the latest vaccination schedule, please call DOH by dialing 219.
American Samoa has received a total of 44,770 vaccine doses for Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen but as of April 5ht, the remaining count is now at 12,483 doses. This inventory will be replenished with a big shipment expected this month and May. According to DOH, a total of 19,320 doses of Pfizer, Moderna and J&J is expected in April and May.
3RD REPATRIATION FLIGHT
A total of 238 travelers have begun their quarantine at the OHANA Waikiki East Hotel in preparation for the territory’s 3rd repatriation flight from Hawaii.
Of that number, 36 travelers have been vaccinated with at least one shot. Four of the travelers are dialysis patients, which is the first time dialysis patients are able to travel on a repatriation flight. Their treatments are being done at the Ohana hotel with the assistance of the US Renal Care Home Hemodialysis. When they arrive, their treatments will be handled by the nearby Hope Dialysis Center, the private dialysis clinic on Vaitogi Road.
Today, April 6, all travelers will undergo their first COVID-19 testing.
The 3rd repatriation flight is set to depart and arrive on April 15, 2021.
FLIGHTS TO SAMOA
Residents needing to apply for US visas in order to make the April 15 return flight to Honolulu were unable to travel last week due to additional requirements needed from the US Embassy.
The planned March 28 and 31 flights initially scheduled for visa applicants were then utilized by the Task Force to repatriate a total of 27 American Samoa residents.
These flights reunited returning missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) and other residents with their families.
The Samoa repatriation process is the same as that of Hawaii. Travelers must register on the DOH and Legal Affairs repatriation websites.
The cost share for the Samoa Repatriation flight is $125 per passenger and can be paid at the Revenue Office when a seat is confirmed.
Seat priority is granted to AS residents stranded in Samoa before border closure in March 2020 and those who traveled for medical reasons.
Samoa nationals have the opportunity to return home on the outbound flights to Samoa.
Residents wishing to travel to Samoa must register with the Samoa Consulate General Office and confirm residency to enter. They are required to get vaccinated before traveling to Samoa.
Coordination for flights from Tonga and Fiji continue but dates are yet to be finalized.