COVID-19 vaccines are an important tool in the fight against COVID-19

Authors: Dr Livinson A. Taulung (FSM Secretary of Health); Dr Eunyoung Ko (WHO Country Liaison Officer), Mr Carter J. Apaisam (FSM Immunization Program Manager).

FSM has worked hard to prevent COVID-19 from entering into our communities. Border closures and quarantine have been strong measures for FSM and many other Pacific island countries and areas (PICs) in fighting the pandemic. These border closures have kept us safe, but they have come at great social and economic cost. None of us want them closed forever.

Across the Pacific, FSM is one of the few countries that have already received and begun administering approved COVID-19 vaccines. This is an incredible milestone. The availability of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines mean that although this pandemic is far from over, there is some light at the end of a very long tunnel. Vaccines, combined with other proven public health measures, will be an important tool in ending the pandemic, globally.

To date, essential workers in FSM have received COVID-19 vaccines, including healthcare workers and frontline workers, including those who work at the airport, seaport and in the quarantine facilities.

Secretary of Health, Dr Livingston A. Taulung, who is considered a frontline worker, received his first COVID-19 vaccine on 14 January. “I had minimal pain on the injection site which resolved the following day. I’ve felt myself and haven’t experienced any side effects over the past three weeks. I’m thrilled that we’re able to offer COVID-19 vaccines to our citizens. These are important for protecting us as individuals; for protecting our families, loved ones, colleagues and wider communities”, said Secretary Taulung.

WHO Country Liaison Officer for Northern Micronesia (Marshall Islands, FSM, Palau) Dr Eunyoung Ko, is also considered a frontline worker and received her first COVID-19 vaccine on 1 February. “In my home country, I don’t fall into a priority group for vaccination, so I feel extremely grateful to have received a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine here in Pohnpei where I work”, said Dr Ko. “Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine has received an emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which WHO considers to be a stringent regulatory authority, as well as having received an interim recommendation from WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts.

While current evidence shows that the existing COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing illness, people who are vaccinated may still be able to pass virus onto others. That means that in FSM and other COVID-contained PICs, there is always a risk that cases of COVID-19 will be introduced into the community.

COVID-19 vaccines are now available in all FSM states, with priority given to those aged 45 and over, and to those with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.

“Being vaccinated is one of the best preventive measures for a healthy and safe community. We need as many people of possible, vaccinated against COVID-19”, said National Immunization Program Manager, Mr. Carter J. Apaisam.

At the same time, vaccines will unfortunately not allow for a return to pre-COVID life any time soon. So as these vaccines are rolled out globally, everyone everywhere, including in FSM, must use or be ready to use the public health measures (e.g. frequent hand washing, mask-wearing and physical distancing) following the government’s protocol, to protect our community and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

To confirm your eligibility and where to go to receive your COVID-19 vaccines, please call your immunization clinic: Pohnpei 320-3144/2217; Chuuk 330-3945; Yap 350-2114; Kosrae 370-2125.

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