HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — Guam could miss its 80% adult vaccination goal by July 21 — unless many of the 4,727 individuals who have missed their second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine for weeks get fully vaccinated Tuesday, officials said.
This comes as Guam reported its 143rd Covid-19-related death on Sunday night, involving a 75-year-old female who was vaccinated, with underlying health conditions.
"While I have promised the people of Guam that I will lift restrictions upon achieving Operation Liberate Guam, I am faced with the harsh reality that we may fall short of our aggressive goal," Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said at a press conference.
Two days before the target 80% herd immunity, Guam was at 78.27% full vaccination among adults 18 years old and older.
That means there are 2,073 adults still needed to reach the goal of fully vaccinating 80% or 96,031 of Guam's estimated 120,039 adults, by Wednesday.
"If we don't hit 80% by July 21st, I am not lifting any more restrictions until we get the 80%," the governor said.
She said this means the cap on social gatherings will remain, and business occupancy would still not be returned to 100%.
Mask mandate, PCOR 4 will remain
Moreover, the mask mandate will remain, and Guam won't be returning to Pandemic Condition of Readiness 4, or normal operations, even if the 80% goal is reached, because of continued positive cases and the threats of the contagious delta variant, among other things, officials said.
Public Health Director Art San Agustin said 4,727 individuals have a long-overdue second dose. Of this number, 3,857 were overdue 21 days or more, he said.
'Every shot counts'
"If you are one of the over 4,000 who have yet to get your second dose, please come out today or tomorrow. Every shot counts," the governor said on Monday.
The governor urged for more vaccination to help meet Guam's goal of achieving 80% population immunity by the time the island marks its 77th Liberation Day on Wednesday.
Her call was echoed by the state surgeon, Dr. Mike Cruz, San Agustin, and Dr. Felix Cabrera of the Department of Public Health and Social Services.
While officials said they do not have the data as to the main reasons for these people to miss their second dose or details about their background, Cabrera said most of them are male.
The governor said Public Health is now calling these individuals, hoping that many of them only forgot about their appointments and not something else.
"And I cannot stress this enough: The vaccine is free. The vaccine is accessible. And the vaccine works," the governor said.
Cruz, who's also the governor's chief medical adviser, said that the best defense against the more contagious delta variant is to get fully vaccinated.
He pointed out that the belief that Covid-19 vaccine changing one's DNA or turning them into "zombie" is not true, and experts have long dispelled this myth.
"I can tell you categorically this does not happen," he said.
'Epidemic of the unvaccinated'
During question-and-answer with the media, the governor said there's no plan to roll out additional incentives for people to get vaccinated.
She said protecting oneself, their family and the community is incentive enough, adding that recent deaths and hospitalizations involved people who were not vaccinated.
The governor's office and the Guam Visitors Bureau launched Vax N' Win, which seeks to incentivize people to get vaccinated by offering them a chance to also win $10,000 cash or a new vehicle in six weekly raffle drawings.
San Agustin said available DPHSS data shows that this has become an "epidemic of the unvaccinated" as Guam continues to see clusters of Covid-19 cases caused by unvaccinated individuals infecting members of their family and community who are unvaccinated or not vaccine eligible.
The governor cited examples of unvaccinated parents infecting their toddlers and middle school children.
"As we’ve seen throughout this pandemic, this is an evolving situation and experts now call this a 'Pandemic of the Unvaccinated'. We continue to see cases of serious illness and death — mainly among those who are unvaccinated," she said.
Residents who are due for their second dose later this week can also do their part to help achieve Operation Liberate Guam's goal.
"That’s because you can receive your second dose up to four days early," she said. "Again, I appeal to our residents — those who have yet to get their second dose, please come out and receive the full protection of the vaccine. With the threat of the delta variant, we do not stop at 80% but we must continue to press forward until everyone who is eligible for the shot, gets one."
As of Monday, there were still dozens getting their vaccine at the University of Guam Calvo Field House. But the demand for the vaccine has dramatically decreased.
The Guam National Guard used to administer 2,300 Covid-19 shots a day. These days, it's down to 300 or less a day. The vaccination clinic at UOG is set to close on July 31.
No booster shot
Cabrera, of Public Health, said "there is no indication right now for booster shots based on available data."
"It continues to be studied. When that recommendation is made, perhaps several months from now if that is the case, then we will have a plan for that as well," he said.