(April 14, 2021)
Together Guam and Taiwan can make a difference in world health
Taiwanese are suffering from the Hualien train accident. Guam Governor Lou Leon Guerrero mentioned in her kind letter to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen that Taiwan has relentlessly supported Guam’s COVID-19 response. Beyond sharing best practices, Taiwan’s utmost generosity and kindness during the global pandemic were also emphasized in the letter.
A hearing for Resolution No. 53-36, which would provide legislative endorsement of Taiwan's bid for observer status at the World Health Organization’s 2021 annual assembly, highlighted the assistance that Taiwan provided throughout the pandemic. This included the procurement of 200,000 masks among other medical supplies, and help chartering flights to provide Guam residents off-island care during the health crisis. It also draws attention to education provided by Taiwanese physicians prior to the pandemic.
The pandemic is obviously not over yet. After receiving lots of help from off-island, Guam is actually able to offer assistance back in the continuing fight against COVID-19 around the world. For example, Guam’s pretty nice vaccine rollout experience.
When the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccine arrived on December 14 last year, Guam had 25 hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Two months later, although only 9.5% of Guam’s population has been fully vaccinated, the hospitalizations dropped to 5 and the island was moving to PCOR3, which allowed most businesses and activities to operate at moderate restrictions.
After a considerable percentage of at-risk people got vaccinated, Guam decided to lower the vaccine age to 16 years old on March 22. At that time, the COVID-19 hospitalization has dropped again to only 1 patient at the hospital.
Thus, combining Taiwan’s successful response before COVID-19 vaccines became available and Guam’s experience of COVID-19 vaccine rollouts, Guam and Taiwan could create a very comprehensive protocol helping many countries that are still being trapped in this public health crisis, for example, Philippines, Japan, Korea and many others in different regions.
In addition to the pandemic, COVID-19 also reveals the importance of prevention and control of diabetes, heart disease and lung problems because these underlying health conditions increase people’s risk for severe COVID-19 illness and death. Learning from Taiwan’s experience in community health, Guam can not only improve its prevalence of diabetes and heart disease but also show its neighbors and the world a healthy life-changing model that would be extremely important in the post-pandemic era.
The best platform to make all of these happen is the World Health Organization (WHO). Unfortunately, WHO has refused to grant Taiwan an observer status, which Taiwan used to own, at its annual assembly since 2017. Government of Guam can work together with the US Federal Government to support Taiwan to resume the observer status at the May 24 to June 1 World Health Assembly this year. It is absolutely a right thing to do.
In our region, Guam should urge WHO’s Western Pacific Regional Office in the Philippines to immediately amend its improper approach that refused to contact or interact with Taiwan. As a result, Taiwan was unable to obtain information about the pandemic and related data issued by the office, and also unable to participate in meetings organized by the office. Many countries in the region therefore lost their opportunity to closely learn relevant public health practices from Taiwan. That is obviously a huge mistake the office really has to fix and Guam can urge them to do it right away.