COVID19 vaccine for Samoa to cost $22.8 million

Vaccinating Samoa against COVID-19 is projected to cost nearly US$9 million (T$22.8 million), and save Samoa from an estimated 4,050 hospitalisations and 385 deaths should an uncontrolled outbreak of the virus occur.

The estimate comes from the Asian Development Bank’s latest policy briefing on the cost-effectiveness of a vaccine in Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. 

In an analysis of preliminary vaccine costs, estimations of how the population would be affected by an outbreak and the healthcare costs that might follow, the multilateral bank suggests Samoa would save over US$6 million (T$15.2 million) in healthcare costs by vaccinating the population.

Between the cost of the vaccine and the savings in healthcare costs, A.D.B. calculates that the cost effectiveness of a vaccine programme is 1.2 times gross domestic product per capita, making it entirely cost effective.

“Substantial benefits from avoided morbidity and mortality from COVID-19, risks of which are elevated because of high comorbidities in the Pacific, along with savings in testing and hospitalization costs—also inflated by the sub region’s remoteness and small markets—drive this result.”

Samoa is a member of the COVAX facility, a World Health Organisation and Gavi run system to bulk buy vaccines on behalf of developing countries through international fundraising.

It will fund vaccines for 20 per cent of each country’s population, or approximately 40,000 people in Samoa. The Government is expected to release a vaccine plan to the World Health Organisation soon. 

Interim Chair of the National Emergency Operations Centre (N.E.O.C.), Agafili Shem Leo confirmed the Government will be talking to development partners throughout the week on access to the vaccine.

So far the facility has raised US$2.1 billion, but a further $5 billion more is needed, according to the Chief Executive Officer of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Mark Suzman.

Speaking to the Guardian earlier this month, Mr. Suzman said with 53 per cent of the global vaccines supply already secured by the richest countries, the developing world is at risk of being left behind.

Despite this, Samoa will be preparing its health system to be able to safely introduce the vaccine and deliver it across the population.

A.D.B. says Samoa will be needing to train vaccinators and target vulnerable and high risk populations.

“Risk behaviour communication on infection prevention and control, along with expanded community engagement to sensitize the communities on the COVID-19 vaccine strategy and minimize potential vaccine hesitancy or misinformation will also need to be undertaken,” the policy brief continues.

“As the COVID-19 vaccine is a new vaccine, sex-disaggregated data collection, monitoring, surveillance reporting, and support will be ideal to contribute to the global knowledge pool on vaccine rollout.”

One of Samoa’s main challenges will be public confidence in vaccines, with some pockets still rattled by the vaccine bungle that left two infants dead in 2018. But after the measles epidemic of 2019 was quashed with a successful vaccination programme, Samoa has shown the value in inoculation.

“In Samoa, further engagement with the community is required to build confidence in vaccines again,” A.D.B. writes.

“The country has invested heavily in community engagement to increase immunization awareness and sensitization to key messages to increase receptivity and decrease hesitancy since the measles epidemic of 2019.”

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