Vaccine demand surges; national total nears 27,000

Another 1,516 people received the COVID-19 vaccination on Friday, updated figures from the Ministry of Health show, with males leading a national vaccination surge. 

The nation’s total vaccination count stood at 26,409 as of 21, May 2021. That figure represents a 44 per cent increase from the number of people who were vaccinated last Friday (18,338). 

So far, a total of 14,588 males (55 per cent) and 11,821 females (45 per cent) have received their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine. 

Those who have received the first dose are required to receive a second shot after 8-12 weeks in order to be fully protected.

Samoa is now using its second batch of 28,000 doses which arrived last Friday through the COVAX facility. 

The rollout of the second jab will kick start on 14 June, in time for some 27,000 more vaccine doses to be received through the COVAX Facility, anticipated to arrive in early June. 

The 79,000 doses received through the World Health Organisation's COVAX facility are enough to immunise 39,500 people as the AstraZeneca vaccine must be given in two doses. This is expected to cover 20 per cent of the eligible population. 

Deputy Director-General, Tagaloa Dr. Robert Thomsen said the biggest challenge faced by health officials administrating the vaccine is the race against time to empty the contents of one vial before it is wasted. 

“The biggest challenge faced by the employees rolling out the vaccine is that one vial contains ten doses. The issue with this vial is that once it is opened, its contents must be used within six hours,” he said in a press conference earlier this month.

"The AstraZeneca vaccine is treated the same way as the measles vaccine; once it is opened, all ten doses within the single vial must be used within six hours. After those hours the doses have not been used, it goes to waste."

People who can be vaccinated include those who are 18 years and older and people who are most at risk of getting severely sick if they get COVID-19 such as people living with heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, respiratory illnesses, H.I.V., cancer, kidney diseases, tuberculosis, and rheumatic heart disease. 

According to the Ministry of Health, pregnant or breastfeeding women, people who are bedridden, less than 18 years old, and those over 85 years old (optional) are amongst those who will not be vaccinated. 

Others who will not be vaccinated include those with a high fever (above or equal to 38 degrees), weak immune systems including those who have been on steroids for a long time and those receiving active cancer treatment, and people with bleeding disorders, known history of severe allergic reactions to vaccines including skin rash, swelling of the throat and eyes and breathing difficulty. 

Constituencies that have been covered by the vaccination rollout include Vaimauga No. 1, 2, 3, 4, and Faleata No. 1, 2, 3, 4.

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