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Health officials in Samoa are urging people to get the shot

Samoa Ministry of Health logo
Only 35% of eligible population vaccinated
Sources: RNZ Pacific, Samoa Observer, Samoa News archives

Apia, SAMOA — People in Samoan eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19 are being urged to do so after new figures show the country's rates of vaccination falling behind other Pacific nations.

The Samoa Observer reports the ANZ and Our World in Data survey shows only 35 percent of people have received the dose.

That is much lower than the Cook Islands (90%), Tonga (50%) and also below the rate for Fiji (40%).

In American Samoa, the COVID-19 Task Force on Tuesday told Samoa News and other reporters at a press conference that 59%+ of the eligible population in American Samoa has had at least one shot in the arm, however, Dr. Aifili Tufa of the Department of Health, says “we’re looking at 70% to be fully vaccinated,” to protect the country.

Associate Professor Siouxsie Wiles, an expert in infectious disease at Auckland University, told the Observer it was crucial to counter misinformation making people reluctant to get vaccinated and ramp up Samoa's rates of vaccination.

Dr Wiles said it was crucial to remember that vaccination is about protecting society as a whole.

She said the first step in ensuring people go to sites to get their vaccination is for those who have already been vaccinated to talk to their loved ones.

"We need everyone to lift their game and everyone who is able to get vaccinated to get vaccinated and to be talking to their friends and families as to why they are being vaccinated.

"And to remember that vaccines are not just about protecting individuals, they are about protecting the collective; it is about protecting those who can't be vaccinated."

Dr Wiles told the Observer noted that because hesitancy is expected after the 2019 measles epidemic in Samoa and the spread of misinformation about vaccines on social media, it is crucial that information is taken out to the people by trusted sources.

"Fiji aims to vaccinate 53 per cent of its adult population (one dose each for about 316,000 people) by the end of June and have all adults fully vaccinated by October 2021," the report notes.

"Vanuatu, Samoa, Tonga, Kiribati, Solomon Islands and the Cook Islands have all commenced their vaccination programs. The Cook Islands [rollout] is most advanced, and expects to have about 95 per cent of the adult population in Rarotonga and Aitutaki fully vaccinated by the end of June."

The report notes that with hope growing as vaccine deployment increases, 'herd immunity' could be reached before the end of the year and international tourism may return in late 2021 and build momentum into 2022.

"On the positive side, a quicker rollout of vaccines to 80-85 per cent of the adult population could see international borders reopen earlier," the report reads.