For some Guam residents, lack of access to crucial public information and reliable transportation is part of their day-to-day challenge.
That means not everyone who should be aware actually knows of COVID-19 vaccination clinics and the dates and times they’re offered and where they’re being held.
And if they do know, getting to those clinics can be tough without reliable transportation.
On Wednesday, the Department of Public Health and Social Services, along with the Guam National Guard, held a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Micronesia Mall.
Roughly 75 people showed up to get vaccinated. Some of them were people whose second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines may have been overdue or was right in that time frame of 21 or 28 days, respectively.
But that number still shows a tepid response to the call from the local government encouraging the thousands of unvaccinated Guamanians to get immunized against COVID-19 or for those who have overdue second shots to become fully immunized.
The government of Guam was roughly 1,400 people short of its goal to achieve population immunity against COVID-19 as of early Thursday. That goal aside, the vaccination clinic that was announced on short notice might have seen success if more people were aware of it. And this was on a major local holiday when many families likely already had plans or were already at their destinations.
At Thursday’s clinic at the Micronesia Mall, some people said they found out about the clinic only late Wednesday, and so they were able to make it.
Some people who spoke to The Guam Daily Post recently said they knew about the vaccination clinics but weren’t able to get to the clinics because of transportation issues.
Getting time-sensitive information out to the masses in a timely manner is necessary so people can plan to arrange transportation.
And additional ways to get the word out to people who don't check their email often, are not glued to social media, or don't follow news reports every day should be established.
Mayors hold crucial roles in getting information to the public. They are the ones who know where their constituents live and, to some extent, what the household circumstances are.
Guam public schools have sought the help of mayors to reach students whose families didn't have reliable phones and/or transportation at the beginning of the last school year.
In the case of the Guam public schools that were not able to reach students right away, the additional efforts to account for the students became a team effort by teachers, principals, social workers and the mayors in the schools' districts.
That’s the model that perhaps should be followed, with a variation that works for the COVID-19 vaccination program. To some extent, the Department of Public Health and Social Services already is doing that with the home-vaccination services for those people who are bedridden or otherwise disabled.
Our mayors and social workers could team up with DPHSS and partner clinics to identify people who face other struggles, including the lack of transportation.
GovGuam offered incentives, including weekly drawings for a new car and $10,000 cash and other prizes over the past six weeks.
The incentives may have helped, as DPHSS Director Art San Agustin stated. But looking at the lottery participation rate, you know something is missing. About 100,000 fully vaccinated Guam residents were eligible to enter, but only 60,000 people registered online for a chance to win a free car, an iPad, or a number of other prizes, not the least of which was up to $10,000 in cash. Perhaps not everyone knew about it, or did not have the ability to register.
DPHSS and its partners are to be commended for making clinics available and for coming up with ways to entice residents to get vaccinated. But to get more to participate, a next-level, grassroots-oriented outreach is necessary.