Medical team urging unvaccinated to help protect the community
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Reaching a 90% or over COVID-19 vaccination rate for the territory’s eligible population is important in order to help protect American Samoa if the deadly virus spreads within the community as commercial flights from Honolulu continue to identify new positive cases, according to Health officials during last Friday’s Health Department news conference.
The COVID-19 Task Force has from the beginning sought to have the vaccination rate for the eligible population reach the goal of 80% or more, but as the new age group of 5 to 11 year olds became eligible for the vaccine, the government increased its goal to 90% or more with the task force making clear that Hawaiian Airlines flights will continue.
While the task force and health officials have explained in previous statements and news conferences the reason for seeking the 90% goal, there are still more questions circulating in the community on why raise the new vaccination rate as some in the public are strongly opposing the vaccination.
At last Friday’s news conference, the territory’s lead Epidemiologist, Aifili Dr. John Tufa with the Department of Health addressed the vaccination rate issue and the reason for it saying that 90% will have American Samoa achieve “herd immunity”, which would help prevent local community spread of the virus.
“So at this point,” he said, “with all our vaccination programs, we are now stuck at 67%” vaccination rate, as of the time of the news conference, adding that although that “number is a good number, as far as protection of the community is concerned, it is not enough.”
DoH officials announced at the news conference that the Nov. 18th flight from Honolulu had 5 new positive cases and these individuals along with their family members, who traveled with them were immediately placed in isolation for 14-days.
This brings American Samoa’s total imported COVID-19 positive cases to ten and all these cases were passengers from Honolulu since commercial air service re-opened in September this year.
Dr. Tufa points out the commercial flights continue to bring positive cases, with the recent ones on the Nov. 18th fight.
“And with more traveling happening in the U.S and throughout the world, we can expect these numbers to continue with the next flights,” he said. “We also need to know that … this quarantine process that we have in place (here), we cannot continue this forever.”
He said there would come a time when the virus will seep into the community and once it happens, it will spread.
“Who is the virus going to spread to? It’s going to be everybody. Just because you’ve got the vaccine doesn’t mean, you’re not going to get the virus — you will still get the virus,” he explained. “However, those people who are vaccinated are protected. They will not develop symptoms severe enough to go into the hospital and be at risk of dying — [as] most of them are fully protected.”
“But amongst those who are not vaccinated, that is our concern, the 33% of the population not vaccinated — and that comes out to about 12,000 individuals — that’s a lot of people. So please, help us, help the community to stop the spread of the virus if it ever reaches our population,” he said.
Other DoH medical team members who attended the news conference as well as Health director Motusa Tuileama Nua urged those not yet vaccinated to do so as soon as possible. Additionally, the government is launching next month the mass vaccination in schools and villages, with Central District vaccinations set for tomorrow, Dec. 1st and Thursday, Dec. 2nd.
According to the DoH presentation, vaccination sites for Dec. 1st are: Nuuuli Vocational Technical High School, Kanana Fou, Tafuna High, Tafuna Elementary, Manumalo school gym, Manulele Elementary, Lupelele Elementary, Pavaiai Elementary, Tafeta/Aasu area at the Aasu Catholic church hall and Siliaga Elementary.
For more information, updates on the vaccination sites, or assistance call DoH hotline at 219.
Yesterday, the CDC expanded COVID-19 booster recommendations to those 18 and over. Read details elsewhere in today’s issue.