Borders closed until 98 per cent vaccinated

National borders will not open until the (eligible) proportion of the population vaccinated against COVID-19 hits 98 per cent, Samoa's health chief Leausa Dr. Take Naseri has confirmed.

Data from the Ministry of Health updated online on Friday morning stated that a total of 10,070 Samoans had been vaccinated as of 11 pm Thursday which is just over 7 per cent of the total target cited by Leausa .

A total of 5,747 are males (57 per cent) and 4,323 females (43 per cent). The mass rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine to the nation’s villages only began late last month.

Speaking during a press conference on Tuesday, Leausa said as Samoa has tried very hard to keep the virus at bay through rigorous screening processes at the border, it is imperative to vaccinate the population now in case the virus slips through.

"Our last line of defense is vaccinating against the COVID-19 virus, and this is why we are pleading to the public that if we do not have 98 to 100 per cent vaccinated of those eligible to receive it, it will be very hard for us to fight the virus and also make it harder for us to open our borders to the world," said Leausa.

"Fortunately for us, we are still able to mobilise within our country like going to church, we opened up restrictions to allow for it, but that will change again once the virus arrives in the country because the virus tends to spread quickly where there are large crowds.

"But this is the most important time we are in, our last resort right now is to get our vaccination doses, and then we will be free from this extreme disease in this day and age in the world."

Leausa also clarified that the 24,000 doses currently rolled out have an official "shelf life" of until the end of May.

"It can be used after May but won’t have the same impact as expected,” he said.

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

But Leausa told the 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.

"If we do not vaccinate up to 120,000 [people] we will fall short of the herd immunity we are targeting," he said.

The Samoa Observer understands the next larger batch of AstraZeneca vaccines is on its way to Samoa but with freight delays its arrival date is unclear.

But it is expected sometime in late May or early June.

Only 79,000 doses have been approved for Samoa through the World Health Organisation-managed COVAX Facility programme, Leausa said.

But he noted Samoa is working to access more doses through New Zealand and Australia in order to reach its vaccination target.

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