‘Unvaccinated people still remain the greatest concern’
The high number of unvaccinated individuals in the CNMI—estimated at over 10,000 individuals—is still a cause for concern, according to Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. chief executive officer Esther Muña last Friday.
Speaking on the radio as part of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ weekly media briefing, Muña said that 87% of the CNMI’s eligible adults have so far already received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, but there are still over 10,000 unvaccinated individuals in the CNMI.
While an 80% vaccinated threshold has been the CNMI’s goal in order to start claiming herd immunity against COVID-19, the focus now is on reducing the number of unvaccinated individuals who are at risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19, she said.
“We want to see an increase in [vaccination] numbers, of course. We always talk about herd immunity, but really the [goal] is to try to minimize infection and death within the community. We’re urging everyone, and if you know someone that has not been vaccinated, please continue to urge them [to] get vaccinated. It is free, it is easy, and it’ll take [around] 10 minutes to enroll in the system,” said Muña.
Herd immunity refers to a form of indirect disease/infection protection that is achieved when a certain percentage of a population has become immune to an infection either through vaccination or past exposure to an infection/disease, reducing the chances of community spread and allowing those with no immunity to remain healthy without receiving a vaccine shot or being exposed to the disease.
In the case of the CNMI’s third COVID-19-related death, Muña said the patient “met the criteria to be discharged. Unfortunately, he did return [to the Commonwealth Health Center] ] and had more complications related to COVID-19-pneumonia.”
On Oct. 7, CHCC announced that the case involved a vaccinated male and CNMI resident with underlying health conditions who passed away sometime in October. He was identified by travel screening and tested positive for COVID-19 in August. He was admitted to the hospital, deemed recovered, and was discharged from CHC in early September. The man was then readmitted to CHC shortly after due to complications related to COVID-19 pneumonia.
Muña said that she and the CNMI’s other health policy leaders will continue to maintain due diligence, and continue to protect the CNMI from the spread of COVID-19.
“We want to be extra careful, [and] we want to continue to do our due diligence to protect the CNMI from [spreading COVID-19] into the community, and that’s what we’ve been trying to do. As [Office of the Governor chief of staff William M. Castro and Gov. Ralph DLG Torres] have said, we are safe, but we’re not safe if we are opening our borders without any protocols that protect us,” she said.