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Immunization campaign underway for all students

Health director Motusa Tuileama Nua

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Speaking at Sunday’s government COVID-19 Task Force meeting, Health director Motusa Tuileama Nua says a three-month immunization campaign is underway for all students —  at both public and private schools — to receive their required vaccinations.

Motusa says DoH wasn’t able to keep up with the fast-pace of student registration by the local Department of Education, due to a shortage of nurses who handle such duties, resulting in the delay of all students getting their shots before the new school year began.

However, he said DoH has launched a three-month vaccination campaign so that all students — both elementary and secondary — receive their required vaccinations.

“It’s a big challenge,” he said, noting that DoH is looking to complete this campaign before Thanksgiving in November.

With the DoH Amouli Clinic closed for renovation, DoH carried out last month a three-week immunization program outreach, followed by this week, for the Eastern District.  Other DoH clinics were also open for walk-ins as well as after hours — 4p.m to 8p.m on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

With public schools and several private schools already in session, Motusa told the task force meeting that DoH won’t be visiting schools so that students are not disrupted during school hours.

However, he encouraged parents to work with DoH in ensuring that students do have their required shots during the three-month campaign by visiting the clinics. To help with working parents, he stressed that clinics are also open after hours on certain days of the week.

Data presented by DoH shows the percentage of public school students whose immunizations are “not up to date as recommended” by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) immunization schedule as of Aug. 28th.

For the total 9,219 student enrollment in both public elementary and secondary schools, nearly 50% — or 4,989 students — are not up to date with their shots. At private schools with a total enrollment of 1,881 — 48% or 899 students — are not up to date with their shots.

Motusa emphasized that these numbers are not firm and DoH will be working closely with both public and private schools to meet the 100% mark. He again called on parents for their support during the immunization campaign.

Through public service announcements last month on local broadcast stations, DoH urged parents to make sure “your child is updated with ALL IMMUNIZATIONS including the flu shot.” Parents are asked to go to the nearest health center for this service, with Leone, Fagaalu and the Tafuna Well Child clinics open, with no appointment required.

At the task force meeting, the Health director also gave an update on the distribution of face-masks to public and private schools. The governor had instructed DoH two months ago to provide a total of 45,000 washable masks to both public and private schools.

Motusa said 20,000 masks were already given last month to ASDOE and 10,000 masks set-aside for private schools. He presented data on the masks distribution to 14-private schools and showed that as of Aug. 20th a total of 6,950 have been distributed to the private schools.

Motusa said each student is to receive two masks and encouraged parents to also purchase washable masks.

The governor had stressed this same message to parents during a task force meeting two months ago, saying that the initial mask distribution for both public and private schools is to help out at the start of their school year.