‘Certain ethnic groups’ urged to stand and be counted in the fight against COVID-19

Department of Public Health and Social Services (PNC file photo)

As Guam continues its goal of attaining 80% “herd immunity” of its adult population to COVID-19, the Department of Public Health and Social Services issued a COVID-19 vaccination data update, stating that its data indicates that certain ethnic groups must stand and be counted in the fight against COVID-19.

“Data also shows that unvaccinated individuals are at the greatest risk of spreading COVID-19, severe illness, and death,” said DPHSS Director Art San Agustin.

Guam aims to vaccinate at least 80% of its adult population against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, to achieve “population immunity.” Population immunity is the protection a community gains against an infectious disease when a high proportion of the population is immune to the disease, either through vaccination or immunity developed through previous infection. One of the aims of working towards population immunity is to keep vulnerable groups who cannot get vaccinated (e.g., due to health conditions like allergic reactions to the vaccine) safe and protected from the disease.

In 2021, 92% of COVID-19 cases and all COVID-19-related deaths were among unvaccinated people on Guam. The island’s current vaccination rate has reduced the number of cases and hospitalizations due to COVID-19, but more needs to be done.

By ethnicity, the vaccination data show gaps in vaccination rates. According to DPHSS vaccination data, less than one-half (43%) of Chamorros are fully vaccinated, and less than one-third (30%) of Chuukese are fully vaccinated.

For other Pacific Islander groups, the data shows Yapese at 64%, Palauans at 48%, Pohnpeians at 39%, Kosraean at 41%, and Marshallese at 34%.

Asian groups on Guam have higher vaccination rates: Koreans at 73%, Chinese at 72%, Filipinos at 71%, and Japanese at 56%.

DPHSS relies on ethnicity data to identify health disparities for focused interventions and community outreach.

Current ethnicity data shows that Chamorros (42%), Filipinos (29%), and other Pacific Islanders (13%) (e.g., Micronesians) comprise the majority (84%) of Guam’s total population.

(JIC Release No. 726)