In mid-August, the American Samoa government dispatched hundreds of doses of PaxLovid to help the Marshall Islands with its outbreak. Receiving the donation are Ministry of Health and Human Services and Red Cross representatives. Photo: Marshall Islands Ministry of Health and Human Services

MAJURO, 19 SEPTEMBER 2022 (MARSHALL ISLAND JOURNAL /RNZ PACIFIC) — The Marshall Islands has been praised by a United States Health and Human Services official for a “superb” response to Covid.

With the Covid outbreak winding down after just one month, the Ministry of Health and Human Services last week dispatched 1500 doses of the Covid drug PaxLovid to Chuuk state in preparation for its response to Covid. Chuuk is the last state in the Federated States of Micronesia to remain Covid-free, but is expected to open its borders before the end of 2022, which will imperil that particular honour.

Various outside medical doctors and officials have praised the Marshall Islands for its response to Covid, which resulted in 17 deaths, well below the nearly 30 projected by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in a forecast done earlier this year.

“This is an amazing report and is indicative of the Marshall Islands’ discipline and well thought-out response to Covid-19,” said Mark Young, the Regional Administrator for Health and Human Services’ Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR). He was referring to a Ministry of Health and Human Services Covid update report in mid-September that showed only a handful of new Covid cases and no additional deaths due to Covid since August.

Young’s recognition of the Marshall Islands response follows praise from a regional representative of the CDC, like ASPR, has supported US-affiliated islands in the region with their preparations for and response to Covid.

“The Marshall Islands has exceeded most expectations to deliver testing and treatment for large numbers of people, and to provide care for those with Covid,” said Dr Richard Brostrom, the CDC Field Medical Officer who spent 10 days in the Marshall Islands during the outbreak in mid-August to assist the Ministry of Health and Human Services, in late August.

“The strong use of oral antivirals (PaxLovid) really made the difference,” Young said last week. “While every death is awful and regrettable, compared to many other Pacific jurisdictions and frankly the continental United States, Marshall Islands has done superbly.”

Marshall Islands authorities said they wanted to help Chuuk be ready for its first outbreak with additional supplies of PaxLovid. The 1500 doses were air shipped on United Airlines.

The FSM government and the American Samoa government both dispatched extra doses of PaxLovid to Marshall Islands last month during the peak of the Covid wave to supplement CDC-provided PaxLovid supplies in the country.

The Marshall Islands is now returning the favour as its Covid outbreak continues to drop to near zero. This past week, Majuro and Ebeye reported from zero to three new cases each day. Since 01 September the number of cases in the two urban centers have been single digits or zero.

Meanwhile, only two outer atolls were still reporting a trickle of new cases as of late last week.

Health Secretary Jack Niedenthal said the Marshall Islands took the initiative to help Chuuk “after telling CDC we are willing to send” PaxLovid to Chuuk.

The other three states in the FSM all have Covid transmission, but Chuuk is the one holdout. Its border is expected to open in November, which will allow Covid into the island.

The Marshall Islands will look to send more doses once it is certain the Covid outbreak has subsided, he indicated. “We are not quite done with the neighbouring islands,” Niedenthal said in communications with CDC. “We will reconsider sending more once we feel we are safely out of the woods here,” he said…PACNEWS

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