First shipment of COVID-19 vaccine arrives on Guam

The vaccine shots were the only cargo transported by the United flight.

The first batch of COVID-19 vaccine shots have arrived on Guam.

Governor Lou Leon Guerrero was on hand to personally welcome and oversee the unloading of the first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine shipment to Guam which was delivered by a United Airlines jet.

The vaccine shots were the only cargo transported by the United flight.

According to the governor, the vaccine shots were flown directly from San Francisco.

“We are the first territory to get the vaccine,” Leon Guerrero said.

She thanked the CDC and the federal government for including Guam in the list of priority areas for the vaccine.

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“We are protecting ourselves. We are prepared and we are ready,” the governor said.

In the mainland U.S., the rollout of the first coronavirus vaccine began Monday morning, making the Guam delivery later than just about 12 hours.

The approval of the vaccine marks a major turning point in the U.S.’s battle against surging case numbers as the first doses of the Pfizer medication was administered to health care workers and nursing home staffers.

According to ABC News, Sandra Lindsay, a critical care nurse from Northwell Long Island Jewish Medical Center, was the first vaccinated in New York at 9:23 a.m. during a live-streamed event with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The rollout comes less than a week after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the vaccine for emergency use for Americans over 16. The order from the FDA led to the pharmaceutical company shipping 2.9 million doses to 636 sites across the country.

Pfizer, which produced the vaccine alongside German company BioNTech, began shipping the doses from its Michigan warehouse Sunday directly to sites, which were pre-selected by governors and local health officials. The fact that Guam got the vaccines so soon means that the island could have been among those pre-selected by the federal government.

Pfizer has said it would roll out a second batch of 2.9 million doses shortly after the first batch. The U.S. government is opting to keep 500,000 doses in reserve to address any shipping or distribution mishaps.

Here on Guam, the Department of Public Health and Social Services (DPHSS) has long been preparing for the vaccines’ arrival after the Pfizer vaccine was approved by the FDA for emergency authorization use.

“Our team at DPHSS has been preparing for this day,” DPHSS Director Art San Agustin said in a news release. “We have been communicating with our federal partners, and our local team, headed by Annette Aguon with the Bureau of Communicable Disease Control, along with our Vaccine Antiviral Prioritization and Policy Committee, is dedicated to the mission at hand—and that is to ensure we get the vaccines to Guam and administered to our people in a fair, equitable, and safe manner.”

DPHSS placed its first order of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines on December 4 for 3,900 doses. It has been given the authorization to place its next order in the next 24 to 48 hours for a minimum of 3,900 doses.

With the arrival of the vaccines to Guam, the governor’s press secretary Krystal Paco-San Agustin said the first vaccinations on island can start as early as this week.