Vaccinations kick off

Raho was first to receive Pfizer vaccine
Posted on Dec 21 2020

Renea Raho, the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.’s chief nursing officer, made CNMI history by becoming the first person in the CNMI to be jabbed with the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine last Saturday, kicking off the start of the mass COVID-19 vaccinations in the Commonwealth.

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Bishop Ryan P. Jimenez, D.D, of the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa were also inoculated at the Medical Care and Treatment Site at the upper parking area of the Commonwealth Health Center, in an apparent bid to show skeptics that the vaccines are safe and reliable.

The CNMI is expected to receive a second batch of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine tomorrow, this time in just one box.

Raho, 47, was injected the vaccine at approximately 8am. She assured that, because she is a nurse, she did her research, and studied all available medical literature on the vaccine before being injected. If you’re not sure if you should take the vaccine, Raho recommends that you talk to your primary health care provider to give you that advice. “As a member of the community, it is your responsibility to keep our community safe,” she said, adding that she didn’t feel any pain when the vaccine was injected.

CHCC chief executive officer Esther Muña assured that Raho is doing fine. “Renea was also key in responding to COVID-19 cases, especially for our patients who have been treated at the hospital and at the ACS,” said Muña. The ACS is the Alternate Care Site at Kanoa Resort in Susupe.

Raho, Torres, and Jimenez were put in another MCATS tent to undergo 15 minutes of observation after their inoculation.

Approximately 90 CHCC staff were vaccinated last Saturday. Muña stated that they have five days to ensure that the vaccine shipment they got are all used.

Before Saturday’s injections, last Dec. 20, Department of Public Safety’s Jose Suares and Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services’ Robert Mojica were the first to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in their departments.

Torres later said in an interview after his injection: “It’s been a long process for all of us. It’s been 10 months, 11 months, and we’re finally here. …In the very beginning, we’ve always said, we need to do all the W’s…and here we are now,” said.

For those who are hesitant about getting the vaccine, Torres cited two reasons why someone should get it: one, it only takes one person to spread the virus to their families, and second, proper information and research can help you make that decision.

Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) will also be inoculated next week. According to his digital newsletter: “CHCC officials have asked me to take the new vaccine to show the public it is safe. I agreed—as long as everyone in the priority groups is taken care of—and will get my first shot next week. If we want to keep our community healthy and get our economy moving again, all of us will need to get vaccinated.”

The priority group refers to health care workers, first responders, and high-risk patients. The goal is to have everyone in the Marianas eventually inoculated as vaccine deliveries continue in the coming months.

Speaking at the radio news briefing last Dec. 18, Muña stated that CHCC did ask people to get vaccinated as part of a campaign to show the community that the vaccines can be trusted and are safe, which is why Torres and Jimenez were among those first in line for the vaccines.

Muña stated that CHCC is working with the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs and medical providers (oncology center, dialysis center) to get the names of the man’amko who can take the vaccine. This will help ensure that CHCC use up its first batch of vaccines.

“Our goal is to protect the CNMI community, save lives, and protect the health system and our only hospital. The vaccine helps save the lives of those exposed to the virus. For some who think they’re willing to take the risk and think they don’t need it, for the sake of your loved ones and those you’re facing every day, get more information about the vaccines from [the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and CHCC, so you can make an informed decision,” said Muña.

She said the community should get the facts and if you have concerns with your medical situation, go see your provider and discuss that with them. “We all need to stop COVID-19 and getting vaccinated is an essential step to take,” she added.

To register for vaccination, go to Muña said that, as the CNMI gets more vaccines in the coming weeks, CHCC will be making more announcements on how to register on

Three test positive for COVID-19

Three more persons were confirmed positive for COVID-19 in the CNMI last Dec. 18 and Dec. 19. This brings the CNMI’s commutative total to 116.

The individuals were identified by travel screening and confirmed diagnosis through testing upon arrival and fifth-day testing. The individuals have been safely in quarantine and were moved to the designated isolation area for close monitoring. CHCC has already initiated contact tracing for the most immediate contacts of the new confirmed case, including passengers on the same flight.

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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