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Task Force urged to ramp up media campaign to reach unvaccinated

DOH Chief Epidemiologist Dr. Aifili John Tufa
Source: Homeland Security media release

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA – With news that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is poised to approve Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for young adults age 12 and older by this month and the territory nearing the deadline of its vaccination allocation, Lt Gov Talauega Eleasalo Ale has called on the COVID Task Force to go all out on a media campaign in order to bring the unvaccinated adult population in to get the shot.

Talauega, who is the Governor’s Authorized Representative (GAR), emphasized at the latest meeting of the Task Force yesterday that getting most or all of our eligible population in to get vaccinated not only protects our people from the deadly virus but it would also confidently prepare the government to open up our borders safely. Talauega said the Pfizer vaccine is expected to be approved for availability to children and this is a welcome news to us as it would help in the protection of our children from COVID.

While the Department of Health with the support from the LBJ Hospital and the VA Clinic are doing a good job with their weekly vaccination outreaches, Talauega said the the “media blitz” should be ramped up with members of the Task Force’s medical team utilizing all forms of the media to educate non-vaccinators about the importance of getting the shot.

The latest data from DOH shows that 21,365 people or 64.3% of American Samoa’s population eligible to get vaccinated has received at least one shot. Of that, 18,248 or 55% are fully vaccinated having completed both shots.

The Task Force is now on a mission to bring in those who have not received the first shot – the 35.7% of the eligible population – majority of whom are between the ages of 16 and 30. 

DOH is finalizing vaccine outreach at the American Samoa Community College. Health officials have also met with church leaders and are coordinating with the Secretary of Samoan Affairs Mauga Tasi Asuega, a member of the Task Force, to conduct outreaches at the village level. 

DOH Chief Epidemiologist Dr. Aifili John Tufa said at the meeting that vaccination is the only way American Samoa can protect itself from the virus if it gets here on island. He made the point to Task Force members — comprising government and business representatives — that we must make sure that our immunity or protection level against the virus in the community is very high.

“Because if a lot of people are immune now to the disease through the vaccination, we can really slow or stop the spread of the disease if it gets here,” he explained. “So upping the immunity, slows down the spread of the disease and makes it easier to contain it, if it ever reaches American Samoa.”

Dr. Aifili also reminded the Task Force that American Samoa is nearing the ending of its allocation of vaccination from Operation Warp Speed, a public-private partnership initiated by the federal government to facilitate and accelerate the development, manufacturing and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines.

Dr. Aifili explained that the last shipment is expected this month, which means “we need to race towards the finish line.”

With the FDA looking to approve the Pfizer vaccine for children starting at 12 years old, the epidemiologist said once the emergency use authorization (EUA) for Pfizer is updated to cover that young age group, DOH expects American Samoa’s vaccination allocation to change.

This means, the media campaign should also start now to educate parents about the vaccination about the research and importance of the vaccination. The public is encouraged to ask questions to Task Force members and get informed about the COVID vaccination.

For the latest vaccination schedules, please call the DOH hotline 219.