With over 80% of Palau’s populations, over 97% of adults fully vaccinated, President Surangel Whipps Jr. said that Palau is protected from the feared effects of COVID-19 virus, which are severe illness, hospitalization and death.
Dr. Thane Hancock, Medical Epidemiologist from US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said Palau has “put in place…a huge foundation for protection against COVId-19” which is the high rate of vaccine coverage of its population. “Palau has really maximized the protection that vaccination provides against those aspects of the disease, hospitalization and death.”
Moreover, he said, Palau has place “additional layers of protection” such as having treatment available and “future collaboration” with US for further vaccination.
With 2 travel-related COVID-19 cases on island confirmed, President Whipps said that life will continue as is. Schools will continue, funerals, night markets and life will continue as is while exercising preventive measures advocated by the Ministry of Health.
With COVID now on island, people have expressed fears about getting the virus despite being vaccinated. Concerns were raised about kids 12 and under that are not vaccinated and are exposed to the virus as well as the continued flights from Guam, increasing the possibility of more cases filtering into Palau.
The “plan” according to President Whipps, is to protect and mitigate against the most “feared effects of COVID-19 of severe illness, hospitalization and death.” That plan includes vaccinating as many people as possible, putting into place other layers of protection such as current protocol of allowing vaccinated travelers only (with minors as exempted), testing 72 hours prior to boarding, testing a day after arrival and on Day 5. Work is ongoing to enable testing passengers upon arrival. It also includes Restriction of Movement. Whipps said this plan is going well but it can be changed as need arise such as the latest change that added another test a day after arrival.
Vaccination of adults helps to protect unvaccinated minors according to Dr. Thanes Hancock, addressing concerns raised about the unvaccinated minors. It is not known when the Emergency Authorization of vaccine for those 12 years old and under can be available but the best way to protect this population segment is to vaccinate as many adults as possible, especially those in contact with them.
School Mitigation Plans for this age population is being finalized by the Ministry of Education with other keys agencies and will be made public soon revealed Gaafar Uherbelau of EOC.
Palau will be providing 3rd dose of COVID-19 vaccine to individuals who are immunocompromised and is expected to be included in the booster shots once approval of booster shots is given by CDC and FDA.
“We know we have to continue living, we have to continue to make sure that people who are ill can get medical treatment…having flights available is a medical emergency, bringing families together, students to school and jobs for people,” declared Whipps.
Whipps said that Palau has been preparing for this moment. Palau is no longer COVID free but it is COVID safe, with protections and mitigation measures in place to protect it from the “feared effects” of COVID-19.