The first batch of COVID-19 vaccine for Guam arrived at the airport Tuesday morning, where Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero and Lt. Gov. Joshua Tenorio greeted the United Airlines flight on the tarmac.
“I understand we’re the first territory that has received the vaccine,” Leon Guerrero said, adding the first vaccinations here could happen as early as Wednesday. “We are prepared. We are ready,” she said.
The federal government approved emergency use authorization for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, and the nation’s first vaccinations happened Tuesday Guam time.
Health care workers with exposure risk to COVID-19 and residents of long-term care facilities have been identified nationally as the first to receive the vaccine.
Leon Guerrero announced the vaccine arrival through a Facebook live video.
“It’s an exciting day today,” she said.
The vaccine was sent directly to Guam from San Francisco, she said, and will help the island return to some sort of normalcy.
Public Health on Monday announced the first shipment of vaccine was not expected to arrive until later this week.
“Our team at (Public Health) has been preparing for this day,” Public Health Director Arthur San Agustin stated Monday after the vaccine was approved for use. “We have been communicating with our federal partners, and our local team, headed by Annette Aguon with the Bureau of Communicable Disease Control, along with our Vaccine Antiviral Prioritization and Policy Committee.
He said the agency is dedicated to the mission: “To ensure we get the vaccines to Guam and administered to our people in a fair, equitable, and safe manner.”
San Agustin on Tuesday said the arrival of the vaccine is very encouraging because it provides another tool for Public Health to respond to COVID-19.
“We’re very charged up and we look forward to the vaccine’s administration and we’re looking at the first vaccination being administered tomorrow,” he said.
Public Health’s Annette Aguon on Tuesday said the vaccine will first be given to frontline workers and those living in long-term care facilities because they’re at the greatest risk.
Public Health will meet with its vaccine advisory committee to determine the order of vaccination for the priority groups, she said.
Aguon said Public Health will provide vaccinations to health care providers while Guam Memorial Hospital and Guam Regional Medical City will be given doses to immunize their staff at their own facilities.
GMH Administrator Lillian Posadas said a survey found 72% of hospital staff want to get the vaccine.
Aguon said the vaccine will help protect people and help flatten the COVID-19 curve.
“The light is at the end of the tunnel… we have something to prevent future cases of COVID,” she said.
She assured the public that safety is going to be the biggest priority moving forward with vaccinations and Public Health will screen residents to determine if they can be vaccinated. The federal government approved the Pfizer vaccine for people over the age of 16.
Aguon asked for the public’s patience as Public Health works to vaccinate priority groups. As the agency gets more vaccine, it eventually will be available to the whole community, she said.
Lt. Gov. Tenorio said the administration is feeling very optimistic now that the vaccine is available to Guam and he asked residents to pay attention for future updates.
“You should have every confidence. This is the most scrutinized vaccine in the world. I’m pretty certain that you should make the decision and take it when your time comes up,” Tenorio said.
UPS, FedEx and Boyle trucks carrying Covid-19 vaccine leaving at Pfizer Global Supply in Portage, Mich., Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020.
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Public Health placed its first order of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines Dec. 4, for 3,900 doses. The agency has been given authorization to place its next order in the next 24 to 48 hours, for a minimum of 3,900 doses, a release stated.
Public Health also placed its first order for the Moderna vaccine, or vaccine B, Dec. 12 for a total of 3,800 doses. The Moderna vaccine still must go through the same review and approval process as the Pfizer vaccine. Both reportedly are more than 95% effective at preventing COVID-19.
Both vaccines require two shots, administered about three weeks apart, in order to be fully effective, which means Guam’s first three shipments should be enough to fully vaccinate about 5,800 people. A 2019 Guam Department of Labor report states Guam has about 2,100 health care workers.
The federal government plans to allow states and territories to place new vaccine orders each weekend, based on the amount of vaccine produced that week.