24,000 Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine doses for Samoa

Samoa has received 24,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, the caretaker Government has advised with frontline workers first in line for vaccination. 

The vaccines were flown into the country last Friday on an Air New Zealand flight with the caretaker Government and the COVAX Facility releasing a joint statement Sunday confirming their arrival. 

The caretaker Government will officially launch the vaccines in a ceremony on Monday at 11am at the Ministry of Health's pharmaceutical warehouse at Motootua. 

Caretaker Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi said the country had waited for the arrival of the vaccine and appreciates the support offered through the COVAX Facility.

“Samoa has long awaited the arrival of the first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine as we continue to adhere to stringent prevention measures,” he said in the joint statement.

“We are most appreciative of the support through the COVAX Facility ensuring early and equitable access to vaccines and are deeply grateful, in particular to our partners who have made the journey with us to support vaccination efforts and other crucial public health measures, in the past, now and into the future.”

Dr Seth Berkley of Gavi, the Vaccination Alliance, said their mission is to “help end the acute phase of the pandemic as soon as possible.”

“COVAX's mission is to help end the acute phase of the pandemic as soon as possible, allowing global equitable access to vaccines against COVID-19.”

Acknowledging the caretaker Government’s efforts to address COVID-19 pandemic in terms of its preparedness and response plans, UNICEF Pacific Representative, Sheldon Yett, said they will continue to work with the Government and their partners.

“We will continue to work with the government and partners, through the COVAX facility, to support vaccination efforts and other essential public health measures to keep communities protected.”

Samoa remains one of few states in the world without active coronavirus cases as well as no fatalities highlighted Dr Akeem Ali, the Acting Director of the World Health Organisation’s Division of Pacific Technical Support. 

“A lot of hard work has gone into this. Now we have another important tool: vaccines,” added Dr Akeem.

“WHO has been carefully monitoring the rollout of all COVID-19 vaccines and will continue to work closely with countries to manage potential risks, and make timely recommendations based on science and data. 

“We encourage Samoans to work with the Ministry of Health to get vaccinated; and to maintain the protective measures that have kept the country safe to date.”

It is understood the country’s frontline workers will be among the first in the population to be immunised, which the caretaker Government confirmed in its joint statement with the COVAX Facility.

The M.O.H. in Samoa is targeting frontline staff in line with global recommendations, added the joint statement. 

This will include frontline healthcare workers, border control staff as well as government and private sector staff who are responding to COVID-19 quarantine and management of operations.

For several months, COVAX partners have been supporting governments and partners in readiness efforts, in preparation for this moment. 

They have been especially active in working with countries benefiting from the Advance Market Commitment (AMC), an innovative financial mechanism to help secure global and equitable access for COVID-19 vaccines. 

This includes assisting with the development of national vaccination plans, support for cold chain infrastructure, as well as stockpiling of half a billion syringes and safety boxes for their disposal, masks, gloves and other equipment to ensure that there is enough equipment for health workers to start vaccinating priority groups as soon as possible.

Vaccines are now arriving in batches to supported countries following necessary preparatory work being completed to ensure immediate administration of vaccines to priority groups identified by national governments in their vaccine deployment plans. 

Samoa has completed preparatory work in good time and therefore is able to receive allotted vaccines from COVAX.

The joint caretaker Government and COVAX Facility further stated that as vaccines start to roll out around the world, they should complement, and not replace, proven public health measures. 

It is also important to expand access to rapid diagnostics and treatments, such as oxygen and dexamethasone, as advocated for by the ACT Accelerator, the joint statement emphasised.

Nevertheless the joint statement says Samoa, like other countries, will continue to apply tried-and-tested measures to successfully prevent and control transmission, such as physical distancing, masks, ventilation and hand hygiene, alongside robust programmes to test, trace, isolate and treat.

The COVAX mechanism is offering a portfolio of vaccines suitable for a range of settings and populations, and is on track to meet its goal of delivering at least two billion doses of vaccine to participating countries around the globe in 2021, including at least 1.3 billion donor-funded doses to the 92 lower-income COVAX Facility participants supported by the Gavi COVAX AMC. 

Samoa welcomes the arrival of this batch of vaccines and looks forward to receiving additional batches needed to complete the vaccination of all eligible people living in Samoa, stated the joint statement.

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