Vaccine to arrive soon

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THE first doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine will arrive by the end of the month or early December, CNMI officials said during a press briefing on Friday.

The vaccine, which was originally expected to arrive here on Nov. 23, has proven to be over 90% effective and will be provided first to doctors, nurses, and other frontline workers in the CNMI.

Covid-19 Task Force Chairman Warren Villagomez said the delay was due to certain issues involving the distribution center and not the CNMI.

“We opted in on the offer to receive the first allocation, so the CNMI is on the list and all of the planning aspects have been submitted, as well as the logistics and all of the equipment necessary to maintain the… integrity of the first vaccine shipment from the federal government,” Villagomez said.

The vaccine requires ultracold storage, he added.

“We have the equipment reserved. We’re coordinating the logistics to have the storage be in time to receive the allotment of vaccines from the federal government.”

He said Tinian and Rota will also receive ultracold storage for the vaccine.

Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. Chief Executive Officer Esther L. Muna, for her part, said CHCC definitely needs the support of the CNMI government to add more storage space if needed.


“What we’re doing right now as part of our planning is to get the messaging clear. We want to be transparent,” Muna said, referring to their Covid-19 vaccine community outreach program.

Data that will be disseminated to the community about the vaccine will show its efficacy and safety, she added.

Healthcare providers have already expressed interest in the vaccine, Muna said.

A survey will also be conducted to  help CHCC better understand how to address community concerns about the vaccine, she said.

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said there are ongoing discussions with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to determine how to best disseminate the vaccine to the community, and maintain the Covid-19 facilities in the CNMI.

As early as this week, he said a team will be reaching out to the community to provide information about the vaccine.

“We always hear that our new norm will [remain the] norm unless we have a vaccine that will allow us to go back to our old norm,” he added. “Now that we have this opportunity, I hope that our community, our business partners and our media partners disseminate the appropriate information and encouragement regarding this vaccine because it will make it safer for all of us.”

The governor said he and his family will take the vaccine when it is made available to them, and he hopes that this will encourage the community to understand the importance of taking the vaccine.

Not an issue

Muna said the public continues to have access to community-based testing even as all inbound passengers are tested upon arrival and quarantined in a government-designated facility before being retested.

“We also make sure that money is not an issue as a barrier to access by applying for presumptive eligibility for Medicaid,” she added.

“I’m not sure what is the issue with the other jurisdictions, but for us [here in the CNMI], we have tried to remove any barriers for anyone, no matter what race or ethnicity they are from,” she said.

As of Saturday, the CNMI recorded 104 positive Covid-19 cases and two fatalities since March.

One hundred one persons have been released from isolation while six persons remain in isolation.

Seventy-eight of the positive cases were  inbound passengers, 36 of whom originated from the U.S. mainland, 31 from a U.S. territory, and 11 from a foreign country.

Twenty-six had been identified through community screening: 10 from community-based testing or CHCC testing, and 16 through contact tracing.

Monday, Nov. 23, is the 99th day since the last community transmission in the CNMI.

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