8400 vaccinated; Samoans urged to join

Samoa is urging the population to get its COVID-19 vaccinations as neighbouring islands in the region start to lose control over local outbreaks of the virus.

Speaking to media on Tuesday, the National Emergency Operations Centre (N.E.O.C.) said rising cases in India, Fiji and Papua New Guinea should put the public on notice about the threat of the virus.

Samoa has been issuing vaccines for a little over two weeks, and by Monday, 8,402 people have received a shot.

Interim chair Agafili Shem Leo and Director-General of the Minister of Health Leausa Dr. Take Naseri said the vaccination programme is making its way around the country by constituency, with town-area sites remaining open for public use.

He said the roving vaccine programme has finished its settlements in the Vaimauga No. 1 and No. 2 constituencies and is now in Vaimauga No. 3 and No. 4.

The country started with 24,000 doses, with a shelf life until the end of May. 

To get through the rest of the vaccines at their best, Samoa needs to vaccinate 15,600 people in just under four weeks, around 600 people a day. 

But Leausa told media on Tuesday he expects that to happen in just a week, saying he expects a further 15,000 people to be vaccinated this week. 

The Samoa Observer understands the next larger batch of AstraZeneca vaccines is on its way to Samoa but with freight delays the arrival date is unclear. But it is expected sometime in late May or early June.

In Papua New Guinea and Fiji, two nations that have previously stamped out outbreaks of COVID-19, pockets of the virus are growing.

Papua New Guinea is hardest hit with 11,200 active cases, and 200 people already dying of COVD-19. Doctors have said hospitals are not coping with the outbreak and are having to turn away patients, reports Radio New Zealand. 

A doctor in Enga province, Dr. David Mills, told Radio New Zealand this week that the official case numbers are “not even a remote figure” of the reality.

In Fiji, there are 31 cases of the coronavirus which were caught in the community. All repatriation flights into the country have been cancelled, with the virus on island confirmed to be the highly contagious Indian variant.

There are also 16 cases at the border in quarantine. Fiji’s health secretary Dr. James Fong warned the country this weekend to be prepared for a surge in cases.

Meanwhile, Samoa continues to bring citizens and essential workers into the country. Another group of recently repatriated people will be released from quarantine on Friday after a three-week stint, with none of them testing positive for the virus, Leausa said.

He said most people in quarantine have been vaccinated, and that by Friday those who still have not will receive their shot.

The recently arrived group of Chinese workers are all vaccinated and will be in quarantine for 14 days. There are 188 workers.

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