Vaccine news not silver bullet but it offers promise with a new year on the horizon

Hope is a word that has been thrown around a lot during the past few days with Samoa joining the rest of the world to celebrate Christmas.

At a time of so much anxiety and uncertainty due to the impact of COVID-19 and the accompanying challenges, even though it’s hard to see and feel hope, it’s important to remain positive and maintain an optimistic outlook.

For Samoa, the revelation in a story titled “Samoa could have COVID-19 vaccine by March 2021” published in the newspaper you are reading is a welcome reprieve. It is not only a timely announcement that would strengthen our resolve as a nation, it should also continue to encourage our people to hold on to hope that the challenges we are experiencing today would eventually ease.

That said, it must be acknowledged that there are many questions surrounding the vaccination process and how realistic the talks are today that we might soon get a vaccine. We have to be realistic enough also that just because there are now talks about Samoa getting the COVID-19 vaccine doesn’t necessarily mean that all our problems will magically disappear. It’s to take a long time to recover in every facet of life and this would require patience and perseverance.

What’s important though is the thought that Samoa could have access to COVID-19 vaccine as early as March or April in the New Year. Ideally we want it now but given the remoteness, smallness and very fact Samoa does not have a positive case, March doesn’t feel like it’s that long away.

According to the Director General of the Ministry of Health, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri, the timeline for Samoa getting the vaccine was discussed during a meeting with representatives of Samoa's development partners and the United Nations this week. Although the details of how the roll out will work are still being finalised, Leausa said it’s a big step forward for Samoa.

“There is hope that we might get a lot of vaccines to cover all our people because if we look at India, 2 per cent of its population can make up the whole Pacific islands population," he said.  “There is belief that by March or April we will have the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Asked who would be given the priority for the vaccines, he said that decision has yet to be finalised. But he indicated that the frontline workers such as immigration officials, health officials including Government representatives could be included on that list.

Let’s hope there is a transparent process through which this would be done so that the poorest of the poor are not disadvantaged while the powerful, wealthy and influential are given the priority and preferential treatment.

But it would probably be a good idea to vaccinate the frontline workers first, including airport and immigration officials, as part of a collective effort to slowly and safely open up Samoa’s borders. It’s going on to a year since our borders have been tightly shut, which has proven the knock out blow for industries such as tourism which rely on visitors. Which means the sooner we can make it safer to receive COVID19-free visitors who can come and spend money in Samoa, the better it would be to begin what would be a slow process of recovery.  

Speaking of recovery, another story titled “Bank proposes approach for tourism rebuild” published on the pages of your Thursday Samoa Observer, also had some good ideas worth considering.

The story in question highlighted a proposal by the World Bank recommending a three-phase system for reopening global travel to the Pacific in a bid to help rebuild tourism.

The bank suggests that by July 2021, the Pacific could be establishing secure “travel bubbles” for specific types of travellers, like temporary workers and students. In the year following, commercial tourism could kick off, building flight paths for business and tourism, and maintaining secure COVID-19 systems. By October 2021, a long-term plan can begin, with widespread vaccination and highly efficient testing and tracing systems.

“Countries could start with small groups of specific types of travellers like seasonal workers, international students, aid workers and some business travellers to start on their path to reopening borders safely,” the World Bank suggests. “Permitting small groups of international travellers allows authorities to effectively ‘pilot’ their procedures and protocols and make rapid adjustments, before opening-up international travel to larger numbers of travellers.”

Why is this discussion important? Well, we are five days from the end of 2020.

It has been a year of trials, tribulations, challenges and tests. We can only pray and hope for a better 2021 and the news of Samoa getting the vaccine which would go a long towards opening up the borders and getting life back to some form of normality, can only be positive and reassuring.

Have a restful last Sunday of this year, God bless!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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