Amid public misgivings over Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said Wednesday getting vaccinated will be "a voluntary choice."
However, the governor sought to allay the residents’ apprehension, noting that the vaccine had gone through “great great scrutiny to make it safe and effective.”
“What we had done is try to push out as much information as possible,” Leon Guerrero said at a press conference announcing details of the vaccination program, which begins Thursday.
“I would encourage the people to read as much as they can about the vaccine and the clinical trials and then make your decision,” the governor said.
Some residents expressed reluctance over taking the vaccine, wary of the reported side effects such as allergic reactions and fever during the trial. But the governor noted that that vaccine was "backed by data and science and clinical trials."
Guam received the first shipment of vaccine on Tuesday, much earlier than anticipated. "We receive a small dose of hope," the governor said. "Guam is the first territory in the nation to receive the Covid vaccine."
Health care workers make up the priority group to be immunized during the initial stage of the vaccine distribution at Okkodo Elementary School Thursday.
Public health director Art San Agustin said the vaccine will not be administered to those with fever or any related symptoms and those who may have allergies to the content of the vaccine.
Annette Aguon, program manager at the Department of Public Health and Social Services, said considering the limited supply of the vaccine, Guam follows the national recommendation for prioritization.
Based on the agency's distribution schedule, health care workers will be followed by residents of nursing homes and then, essential workers.
By summer, Aguon said, the vaccine is expected to be available to the general population.
“Our goal is to immunize as many residents as possible,” Aguon said. “However, that is dictated by vaccine production by each of the manufacturers, and again, our allocation is based on our population.”
The Pfizer vaccine, which was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration, is distributed to 64 jurisdictions across the nation as well as the freely associated states.
“That’s why we have to do this phased approach,” Aguon said. “We have limited vaccine so we need to prioritize based on what will give us the most benefit to reduce the spread of coronavirus.”
Meeting the mass immunization goal “will take some months,” Aguon said. “Right now. Pfizer’s vaccine is to be administered only to 16 years old and older.”
While the vaccine is now available, the governor said, “it does not mean that the pandemic is over. We cannot become complacent."
The people of Guam “are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” the governor said, “but our actions remain as important as ever. We cannot become complacent. Wear your masks keep your distance and wash your hands.”