Colonia, Yap-- The first shipment of Covid-19 vaccine serum has been delivered to Yap. Although the FSM state remains free of the coronavirus, it is actively preparing for the future reopening of its borders.
On Jan. 14, Amos Collins, director of flight operations for Yap-based Pacific Mission Aviation, arrived from Chuuk with the initial 1,500 doses of the much awaited shipment.
Accompanying Collins on the flight was Dewey Dipwek of the Department of Health Services to assist with the loading and unloading of the precious cargo and ensure its safe handling. It was flown to Chuuk from Pohnpei by Caroline Islands Air where Collins and Dipwek met the plane and transferred the precious cargo.
The container was handled and sanitized following strict protocols established by Yap’s Health Crisis Task Force. All personnel involved in the transfer wore PPE and observed social distancing.
Yap is receiving 15 percent of the vaccine supply that is first sent to Pohnpei for distribution to the four states. Pohnpei is receiving 40 percent of the total supply, Chuuk 33 percent and Kosrae 12 percent.
The CDC informed Yap's leadership in a Jan. 8 Zoom conference that new shipments are planned to arrive weekly.
The Federated States of Micronesia is receiving the Moderna vaccine due to its temperature requirements of between -13°F and 5°F compared to the Pfizer vaccine that requires a much lower storage temperature of -112°F to -76°F achieved with dry ice.
Yap does not have the ability to make or keep dry ice, but DHS has freezer units that will maintain the correct temperature for the Moderna vaccine.
Another key consideration is keeping the serum frozen while being transported to the state’s remote Outer Islands.
The vials contain 10 doses each and will be sent via a cooler that will maintain the required temperature. Once taken out of the freezer, they can be stored in a refrigerator between 36°F and 46°F before the vials are punctured and the serum extracted. After 30 days, any vials remaining in the refrigerator are to be discarded according to the manufacturer. The thawed vaccine cannot be refrozen.
DHS has announced that it is “putting together lists of people eligible for the Covid-19 vaccination based on a three stage rollout plan.” Phase 1 includes frontline and secondary health and port-of-entry workers, residents over the age of 60, and those who are most vulnerable and have chronic health conditions.
Phase 2, “Critical Infrastructure,” will reach the leaders of the government, key traditional leaders and religion leaders, as well as essential workers in areas such as transportation, food and agriculture, banking and finance, government personnel and community leaders. Phase 3 will address the remainder of the general population over the age of 18. Each person will receive two vaccinations 28 days apart.
The rationale for this three-phase plan is based on “risk and vulnerability.” Phase 1 is aimed at those who are considered on the front line saving lives or at higher risk of contracting the Covid virus while doing border or port-of-entry work; people who are close contacts of the front liners and support their daily work; and those who will need as much protection as possible when infected due to the state of their health. Phase 2 will reach those who run public services including government, private and religious organizations and are critical to the continuation of those services.
Although the Moderna vaccine has been approved for children aged 16 to 17, those under the age of 18 in Yap will not be given the vaccine at this time.
At a health care conference hosted by JPMorgan on Jan. 11, Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said new trials must be done since children will receive lower doses than adults.
She added that clinical trials on children under the age of 11 “will take much longer, because we have to age de-escalate and start at a lower dose. So we should not anticipate clinical data in 2021, but more in 2022,” according to a report by Business Insider.
While receiving the first vaccine in the country, President David Panuelo announced his goal of 100 percent vaccinations for all four states.
All healthcare staff in Yap are taking virtual training sessions about the vaccine and its administration provided by the CDC and other reputable organizations such as UNICEF’s Health Care on Air for nurses and other health workers that airs on radio stations throughout the Pacific region. Aired on Radio V6A1 1494AM in Yap, the state is receiving a total of 41 broadcasts of 30 minutes each.
In addition, a twice-a-day Island Chat program for the general public features Dr. Ann Lopez talking about the Moderna vaccine. Regular updates are also available on V6AI 1494AM, KUTE 89.9FM (Wednesday), the Wa’ab Community Health Center Facebook page, Yap Risk Communication and Community Engagement Team Facebook page, and the Yap Department of Health Services Facebook page.