Nearly 600 American Samoans already vaccinated

Nearly 600 people were vaccinated for COVID-19 before Christmas in American Samoa, KHJ News reports.

In just four days, 570 people had already received the Pfizer/BionTech vaccine between Tafuna Community Health Centre and the L.B.J. Hospital.

With a break over the holiday period, vaccinations are resuming on Monday (Tuesday Samoan time).

Chief Epidemiologist for the Department of Health, Dr. Aifili John Tufa, said health workers were performing an average of 200 vaccinations a day.

Just two people had minor reactions to the vaccine with some itchiness and redness. After being monitored for the day they were released.

The first group in line for the vaccine are frontline health workers, first responders and travelers headed for Honolulu requiring medical treatment in January.

Meanwhile the World Health Organisation is getting closer to approving a COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use.

W.H.O. country representative Dr. Rasul Baghirov said while timing is not totally clear, approvals are weeks, not months away.

“W.H.O. will only validate vaccines that are shown to be safe and effective,” he said in an email.

For the Pfizer/BionTech vaccine, which has received emergency approval from America’s Food and Drug Administration, W.H.O. is currently reviewing the data available in order to make its own approvals.

“A W.H.O. emergency use listing will allow countries to authorize the vaccine for national emergency use and could open the door to international supplies of the vaccine through global procurers (such as UNICEF),” Dr. Baghirov explained.

“W.H.O. is also in discussions with M.H.R.A. (the U.K. regulator) on the possibility of accessing some of the information from their assessment, which could expedite W.H.O.’s emergency listing. 

“In the meantime, W.H.O.’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (S.A.G.E.) is also reviewing the vaccine and formulating policy recommendations on how best to use it.”

Under a global procurement agreement, Samoa is slated to receive at least 40,000 vaccines, or enough for 20 per cent of the population.

The country needs to decide who this 20 per cent will be made up of. Dr. Baghirov said Samoa has yet to decide on its “risk group populations,” but the W.H.O.’s advice has been to start with health workers and older people. 

Around the world are over 200 vaccines at some stage of development, with 52 vaccines in the middle of human trials and 13 in ‘phase three’ or the last phase before they can be assessed for public use.

“We have a very robust pipeline – the more candidates, the more opportunities for success (typically, the success rate of candidate vaccines is 10 per cent),” Dr. Baghirov explained.

“It’s been encouraging to see that many manufacturers and developers have published their protocol so you know each step and when they will occur. 

“This transparency and sharing has been very important for scientists, regulatory agencies and W.H.O. to be able to evaluate and compare the vaccines. It also helps towards building trust with the population.”

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