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Update: With vaccine on horizon — date for repatriation flight reviewed

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Distribution Task Force preparing priority rankings for the vaccine.

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The ASG Vaccine Distribution Task Force met Monday “to begin formulation of the mandated Distribution Plan” for Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga’s “consideration and approval,” according to task force member, Iulogologo Joseph Pereira, who is also chairman of the government’s COVID-19 Task Force.

Through a Nov. 17th memo, the governor established the Vaccine Distribution Task Force, charged with planning the distribution of a vaccine for the deadly coronavirus once it becomes available.

Responding to Samoa News inquiries, Iulogologo said that the Vaccine Distribution Task Force “is now engaging in developing the distribution infrastructure to make sure that the vaccines are promptly utilized in light of their useful shelf life.”

“Collaborative protocols are being developed as well between LBJ Medical Center and Health Department to create seamless collaboration on the distribution and vaccination of our people,” he explained.

Asked what the Vaccine Distribution Task Force’s recommendation is to the governor as a result of Monday’s meeting, Iulogologo responded, “Given the imminent availability of the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines, the Vaccine Distribution Task Force, is recommending to the COVID-19 Task Force to request the Governor to move back thirty-days the January 19, 2021 suspense date for the first Repatriation Flight so it can sort out new protocols given the advent of the vaccines.”

(As previously reported by Samoa News, the governor has given provisional approval to the government’s Repatriation Plan and has agreed to the ASG Coronavirus Task Force’s suggestion of the first repatriation flight on Jan. 19, 2021 for the estimated 600 American Samoa residents stranded in the U.S. See Samoa News edition Nov. 20th for details.)

As to the priority of who is to get vaccinated first when a vaccination is available, Iulogologo said the Vaccine Task Force is presently preparing the priority ranking matrix for the distribution of the vaccine.

“What is certain is the first priority will be accorded to the Healthcare workers and first responders,” he pointed out. “The complete ranking matrix will be completed soon for presentation to the Governor.”

He also said that the governor, based on the recommendation of the Vaccine Distribution Task Force, has sent out his letter to federal Warp-Speed Group directing the distribution of the vaccines.

“In the Zoom Conference call held between the Governor and this group, 2,000 vaccines will be made available to American Samoa once the vaccines become available,” Iulogologo said.

Three drugmakers have announced their vaccine effectiveness — Pfizer and Moderna in the past week and this week it was AstraZeneca.

“The Governor's letter to the Warp-Speed Group articulates our decision to opt in to all the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and any new ones like the AstraZeneca which might be approved by FDA for public use,” was Iulogologo’s response when asked if American Samoa will consider vaccines from all three makers.

National news outlets quote US health officials saying that sufficient cooling facilities would be required for storage of the vaccines.

Asked if American Samoa has sufficient facilities, Iulogologo responded that both LBJ and DOH “have refrigeration capacity that would accommodate the storage requirements of the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines. The vaccines will be transported packed in dry-ice.”