The first batch of Covid-19 vaccines are scheduled to arrive within the next week, possibly as early as this weekend, according to RMI officials.
The United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is providing an initial delivery of the Moderna-developed vaccine to the RMI, Federated States of Micronesia and Palau.
The RMI Cabinet, Ministry of Health staff, and heads of all RMI government departments and agencies were briefed earlier this week on the imminent arrival of the vaccines. RMI is to receive 1,200 doses — which means 600 people can be vaccinated in the initial round because each person needs two of the Covid shots for it to be effective.
Chief Secretary Kino Kabua confirmed that CDC is providing 1,200 doses and the first delivery was expected for this weekend, although this could change by a week.
Health Secretary Jack Niedenthal emphasized that the vaccine is voluntary. The aim is for health staff and other first responders, as well as elderly people who are the most at risk for Covid to be in the first group to be immunized against Covid, said Niedenthal.
CDC has advised the RMI that it will provide 1,200 and then another 6,000 doses soon after, said Niedenthal. “We could be getting a lot of vaccines over the next couple of months,” he said.
During the briefings early this week, one question that came up was why is RMI “rushing” to get the vaccine when the country is Covid-free? “It takes six weeks for the Moderna Covid vaccine to be effective,” said Niedenthal. The second shot is taken 28 days after the first, and then it takes another two weeks to reach its full effectiveness, according to Niedenthal. So it makes sense to move forward with getting the population prepared now, he said.
“I want to emphasize that the reason we are where we are today — Covid-free — is because we have been very proactive about closing our borders, updating our travel advisories, and the protocols at Kwajalein for repatriation,” said Niedenthal. “This (vaccines) is our next step, to get people vaccinated before Covid comes.”
The US-made vaccines are being provided through the US government’s Operation Warp Speed.