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Guam's governor takes hands-on approach to administering Covid vaccines

About 84 percent of the island territory's total population is fully vaccinated, according to Guam’s Joint Information Center.
Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero administering vaccines at a clinic hosted by the National Guard.
Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero administering vaccines at a clinic hosted by the National Guard. Guam Governor's Office

In Guam, vaccinating against Covid-19 has been an island-wide effort, with the governor of the U.S. territory occasionally stepping in to help.

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero joined the Guam National Guard and the Department of Public Health and Social Services on Tuesday to administer vaccines at the University of Guam.

Leon Guerrero, a registered nurse, has been lending a hand since vaccines became available in December 2020 in an effort to promote vaccination on the island.

Though she doesn't do it regularly, Leon Guerrero said she administers the vaccines when she thinks it might be impactful.

“What more connection could people have than a nurse going out there, vaccinating people, and not only am I a nurse, but their governor,” she said.

Leon Guerrero said she first vaccinated her medical advisers and the island's lieutenant governor to try to demonstrate support for the vaccine's efficacy.

“It’s a real kind of demonstration about our commitment to get our community vaccinated,” she said.

Governor Lou Leon Guerrero with her grandchildren.
Governor Lou Leon Guerrero with her grandchildren.Guam Governor's Office

When children became eligible, Leon Guerrero returned to the front lines to vaccinate kids, including her grandchildren, to try to convince parents to do the same.

Now, as the island waits to learn whether the omicron variant has been confirmed there, she has taken up the role once again.

"We are assuming that it’s already here," Leon Guerrero said. "We’re preparing for it by making sure we have increased access to testing and making sure that we are on a major campaign to have our people be boosted."

About 84 percent of the total population and 91 percent of those eligible are fully vaccinated, according to Guam’s Joint Information Center.

Leon Guerrero gave credit to Guam’s residents for their willingness to cooperate with safety measures and get vaccinated.

Two years into the pandemic, the island of close to 154,000 residents has had a total of 19,531 cases and 270 deaths, according to the Joint Information Center. 

Guam has seen a slight increase in the percentage of new Covid-19 cases in the last 14 days, and a decrease in reported deaths, according to an NBC News record of cases.

Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero administering a Covid vaccine.
Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero administering a Covid vaccine.Guam Governor's Office

Leon Guerrero said Guam has faced some challenges combatting the pandemic because it is an island territory.

“We are not a state, and we are not a country. We are a territory governed by the U.S. laws, and we have no control over our borders,” she said.

Guam got its first three cases in March 2020 as the coronavirus spread across the globe. Without the authority to regulate entry, Leon Guerrero said Guam instead established a quarantine requirement to try to slow the spread.

Officials have also been working to improve testing and access to vaccines, she said.

The island's location in the western Pacific Ocean, east of the Philippines, has also created supply chain challenges.

“You have to think ahead of time about the distance and the shipping time and period in order for you to get your necessary supplies to fight the pandemic,” Leon Guerrero said.

“Sometimes we feel isolated,” she added. "But we are very creative and innovative in trying to prevent community spread and trying to save lives out here."