Covid vaccine action in high gear

The Ministry of Health ramped up its Covid vaccine outreach this week, with first responders — police, fisheries officials, and others — getting vaccinated at the International Conference Center in Majuro. Photo: Wilmer Joel.

GIFF JOHNSON

Coronavirus vaccines were rolled out to a larger segment of the Majuro and Ebeye communities starting January 18.

Last week, people in the 60 and over age group were eligible for vaccines and many took advantage of this by walking into the MCH Clinic at Majuro hospital to obtain the first of two shots of the Moderna brand Covid-19 vaccine.

Starting Monday this week, the vaccine was offered to anyone 40 years and older in Majuro and Ebeye.

In addition, numerous others are now included for Covid vaccination as the volume of vaccine doses available in RMI has increased dramatically, thanks to deliveries from the US Centers for Disease Control, which is providing the Moderna vaccines at no cost to RMI, FSM and Palau.

RMI and its neighbors are all moving ahead quickly with their vaccine programs, said Niedenthal, who each week participates in a call involving health officials from all US-affiliated islands in the region as well as US authorities. “The freely associated states have some of the highest vaccine rates compared to the United States,” said Niedenthal. “We take the disease seriously.”

He indicated that the US government, which is providing the vaccines, is looking at usage rates in all states and US-affiliated islands. “How quickly we use the vaccines determines the number we receive,” he said.

The Moderna vaccine requires each person to receive two doses 28 days apart.

The Ministry of Health announced that in addition to people 40 and over, the vaccine is also now being provided to:

• The balance of healthcare workers and first responders.

• On Ebeye to also include USAG-KA RMI workforce, who live on Ebeye.

• People aged 18 and up with compromised immune systems.

• People with mental health issues 18 years and up.

In related Covid news for RMI:

• “Our aim is to get a single-dose Covid vaccine,” said Health Secretary Jack Niedenthal Friday last week. A single dose Covid vaccine is under development by the pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson, and could be available in the next few months, he said.

The Moderna brand vaccine currently in use requires two shots spaced 28 days apart. This is complicated in the RMI’s circumstances, as people often leave Majuro or Ebeye for the outer islands, or can be difficult to find when it comes time for a second dose to given, Niedenthal said. “Here it can be hard to track people,” he said. “We do our best, but a single dose would be best.”

• The Marshall Islands government spent nearly $400,000 on food baskets for outer island communities, according to a report from the Ministry of Finance. The food was bought through seven local companies from July to December last year.

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