Coronavirus scare is boosting inquiries about immunization

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The novel coronavirus that arose in Wuhan, China, has not been detected yet in the CNMI but anxieties about the continued spread of the virus, called 2019-nCoV, is resulting in the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.’s immunization program starting to see an influx of individuals seeking to be vaccinated.

In a short interview with CHCC’s immunization program manager Jeremy Sasamoto, he said that residents and even tourists have been going to the Commonwealth Health Center to inquire about possible vaccines to combat this new virus.

Unfortunately, Sasamoto said, there still is no preventative vaccine or cure since the virus is still new and has yet to be studied thoroughly.

“This whole week we’ve been having folks heading over here, asking us for these pneumonia vaccines because of this [2019-nCoV]. I mean we can help them with some stuff but there isn’t any shot specific for this [2019-nCoV] because it’s so new but they assume that we may have something,” he said.

Sasamoto said that the National Institute of Health is working on a vaccine for the virus but it will take some time, “We don’t know if that will actually happen; it is still early,” he said.

The 2019-nCoV virus has been spreading rapidly and has already killed about 80 individuals in Wuhan, China.

Sasamoto said that CHCC has vaccines for similar viruses and the flu. Also, the only thing the immunization program can offer right now is advice on how to steer clear from getting the novel coronavirus and other similar viruses.

“It wont help for this specific virus but, really, this is like the flu. You just have to wash your hands all the time. Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose, and mouth unless its washed. If anyone looks sick, just stay away from them. This new virus is not really airborne, but still it’s scary,” he said.

When asked if CHCC has the authority to request for a temporary ban on tourists who are from affected areas, Sasamoto said it would have to be an inter-agency decision.

“We have our own authority but, as far as a ban [is concerned], it would have to be an inter-agency thing. We do have the authority to quarantine individuals, things like that, but a travel ban, I don’t think so,” he said.

Currently, Sasamoto said he isn’t too worried about the novel coronavirus reaching the CNMI. He added that he is more worried about measles since measles spreads a lot easier.

Kimberly Bautista | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.
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