Vaccines to arrive March, April
Samoa will be receiving one of two leading versions of the COVID-19 vaccine in coming months, the Director-General of the Ministry of Health says, and whichever arrives first will be put to use.
Samoa will receive either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Oxford University AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri said on Wednesday.
Speaking to the media, Leausa said the health sector is making preparations to store and deliver the vaccines, which will arrive in March and April.
Nurses are currently undergoing fresher courses on vaccine administration, including becoming certified vaccinators. Leausa did not say which certification they would be getting.
He said the measles epidemic showed Samoa that some nurses were not fully capable of administering vaccines, so in response the Ministry of Health is mandating that all nurses are certified providers of vaccines.
The cold chain storage, especially for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is being organised currently, with the vaccines' special requirement to be stored at sub-zero temperatures. The AstraZeneca vaccine can instead be stored in Samoa’s existing ice boxes.
There are two sub-zero temperature fridges already in Samoa and one more is being delivered shortly, Leausa said.
To accommodate the first vaccinations, Samoa will postpone a flight scheduled for Saturday 17 April to later in the month so that the health sector can manage the immunisations.
Some flights in March have also been cancelled.
Leausa said the vaccines will be used as quickly as possible, to avoid storage issues causing the vaccine to lose efficacy.
Upolu and Savaii will see vaccine rollouts simultaneously, he said.
Leausa said he is encouraged by the effects of the vaccine in countries successfully rolling it out.
He said once Samoa has access to the vaccine, unvaccinated arrivals will be quarantined and vaccinated before release.
Asked whether the election dates will affect the vaccine drive, the Director-General said it is not relevant to the rollout.
All plans to vaccinate are in place, and the only delay is in waiting for the shots to arrive.
Asked whether the AstraZeneca vaccine’s reduced efficacy in the face of new variants is an issue, Leausa said there is more research being done on this but it appears to be fine to use and Samoa will monitor its effect closely.