Over 1,700 vaccinated so far

400 Moderna vaccines arrive
Posted on Dec 29 2020

As of Dec. 28, over 1,700 front-liners and man’amko in the CNMI have been inoculated with the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. That number is expected to go up even more after the CNMI received the first batch of the COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna Inc.

The Moderna vaccines, which total 400 doses, arrived last Dec. 26 on a United Airlines flight. These vaccines will be sent to Rota and Tinian, and will be allocated to the those on Saipan who are homebound. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are the only ones that have so far obtained Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The CNMI is rolling out the vaccination process in three phases, with Phase 1 focusing on health care workers, first responders, and the elderly (man’amko). Next in line are those with underlying health conditions, who are recognized as among those at high risk of COVID-19.

While the CNMI has not run out of vaccines, Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. chief executive officer Esther Muña reminds the public that only the people who fall within the Phase 1 inclusion criteria can get vaccinated right now.

Last week, Phase 1A included the man’amko, (65 years old and above) and first responders to many CNMI emergencies and not just COVID-19. These included personnel from CHCC, Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services, as well as other emergency service agencies that respond to any emergency.

Over the weekend, CHCC expanded their age requirement for COVID-19 vaccinations and is accepting walk-ins for people who are over 60 years old. Additionally, there is no age limit for those who are first responders and health care workers.

Phase 1B will be open on Tuesday and includes CNMI government employees, including COVID-19 contract tracers, CNMI elected officials and judges, federal employees, judges, education workers, telecommunication employees, and faith-based officials. Those who meet the criteria will be given a schedule that will be posted on CHCC’s Facebook page to ensure a space is still available for those in Phase 1A.

Muña disclosed that they have been turning away those who don’t fall within the inclusion criteria or are not going to be able to receive the second dose. The Pfizer vaccines are a two-shot injection, with the second injection administered 21 days after the first injection.

Muña said the public should continue to stay patient and vigilant as CHCC continues to get the vaccines to the arms of the CNMI population.

Muña told Saipan Tribune that when individuals are turned away, they’re not saying these people can’t get the vaccines. Muna pointed out that, with the limited number of vaccines that are available right now, they’re just making sure that those in the inclusion criteria get injected first.

Also, Muña said, they want to make sure that the man’amko, who likely need assistance to register, get the opportunity to fit into the scheduled vaccinations. “As allocations are given to the CNMI based on our population, we will be expanding the inclusion criteria,” she assured.

Meanwhile, the Moderna vaccines are expected to roll out on the week of Jan. 4. Since the Pfizer vaccines were rolled out for Saipan residents and the Moderna vaccines will be rolled out on Rota and Tinian, Rota and Tinian residents will need to wait until the vaccines are rolled out in their respective islands to ensure they get the same brand for doses 1 and 2.

“We acknowledge that there may have been periods of waiting, confusion, and frustration during the first week of COVID-19 vaccinations,” said CHCC in a statement, “but we are working to improve the process of making sure that the vaccination process will be smoother and ask for everyone’s patience and understanding.”

Justine Nauta | Correspondent
Justine Nauta is Saipan Tribune's community and health reporter and has covered a wide range of news beats, including the Northern Marianas College and Commonwealth Health Care Corp. She's currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation and Human Services at NMC.
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