Apia, Samoa, 9 April 2021 - Today, Samoa joins Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Nauru and Tuvalu, in the Pacific islands, to receive COVID-19 vaccine doses shipped via the COVAX Facility, a partnership between CEPI, Gavi, UNICEF and WHO. This is a historic step towards achieving the goal to ensure equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines globally, in what will be part of the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history.
The 9 April 2021 arrival in Apia of 24,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine marks the sixth batch of vaccines to arrive in the Pacific region through the COVAX Facility in the global partnership’s effort to deliver at least two billion doses of ws
"Samoa has long awaited the arrival of the first doses of the Astra Zeneca vaccine as we continue to adhere to stringent prevention measures. We are most appreciative of the support through the COVAX facility ensuring early and equitable access to vaccines and are deeply grateful in particular to our partners who have made the journey with us to support vaccination efforts and other crucial public health measures, in the past, now and into the future,” said the caretaker Prime Minister Honourable Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, on receiving the news of the arrival of the vaccines.
Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccination Alliance, emphasized that “COVAX's mission is to help end the acute phase of the pandemic as soon as possible, allowing global equitable access to vaccines against COVID-19.”
“We acknowledge the Samoan Government’s efforts to ensure robust preparedness and response plans to address the threat of COVID-19,” said UNICEF Pacific Representative, Sheldon Yett. “We will continue to work with the government and partners, through the COVAX facility, to support vaccination efforts and other essential public health measures to keep communities protected.”
“Samoa is one of the few countries in the world currently without active cases of COVID-19, and no deaths as a result of COVID-19,” said Dr. Akeem Ali, the Acting Director of WHO’s Division of Pacific Technical Support. “A lot of hard work has gone into this. Now we have another important tool: vaccines. WHO has been carefully monitoring the rollout of all COVID-19 vaccines and will continue to work closely with countries to manage potential risks, and make timely recommendations based on science and data. We encourage Samoans to work with the Ministry of Health to get vaccinated; and to maintain the protective measures that have kept the country safe to date.”
The Ministry of Health in Samoa is targeting frontline staff in line with global recommendations. This will include frontline healthcare workers, border control staff as well as government and private sector staff who are responding to COVID-19 quarantine and management of operations.
For several months, COVAX partners have been supporting governments and partners in readiness efforts, in preparation for this moment. They have been especially active in working with countries benefitting from the Advance Market Commitment (AMC), an innovative financial mechanism to help secure global and equitable access for COVID-19 vaccines. This includes assisting with the development of national vaccination plans, support for cold chain infrastructure, as well as stockpiling of half a billion syringes and safety boxes for their disposal, masks, gloves and other equipment to ensure that there is enough equipment for health workers to start vaccinating priority groups as soon as possible.
Vaccines are now arriving in batches to supported countries following necessary preparatory work being completed to ensure immediate administration of vaccines to priority groups identified by national governments in their vaccine deployment plans. Samoa has completed preparatory work in good time and therefore able to receive allotted vaccines from COVAX today.
As vaccines start to roll out around the world, they should complement, and not replace, proven public health measures. It is also important to expand access to rapid diagnostics and treatments, such as oxygen and dexamethasone, as advocated for by the ACT Accelerator. Samoa, like other countries, will continue to apply tried-and-tested measures to successfully prevent and control transmission, such as physical distancing, masks, ventilation and hand hygiene, alongside robust programmes to test, trace, isolate and treat.
The COVAX mechanism is offering a portfolio of vaccines suitable for a range of settings and populations, and is on track to meet its goal of delivering at least two billion doses of vaccine to participating countries around the globe in 2021, including at least 1.3 billion donor-funded doses to the 92 lower-income COVAX Facility participants supported by the Gavi COVAX AMC. Samoa welcomes the arrival of this batch of vaccines and look forward to receiving additional batches needed to complete the vaccination of all eligible people living in Samoa.
In ensuring the safety and efficacy of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, the vaccine has undergone rigorous clinical trials and safety assessments in order to ensure it meets the highest level of safety standards.