American Samoa declares emergency, rejects unvaccinated Samoans
American Samoa Governor, Lolo Matalasi Moliga, has declared a public health emergency for the territory in a bid to tackle measles that requires visiting Samoans provide proof of vaccination upon arrival.
Governor Lolo issued the declaration on Friday (Thursday American Samoa time), requiring travellers from Samoa and Tonga to provide proof of M.M.R. immunisation upon arrival in American Samoa.
“Any visitor who fails to provide such proof on arrival will be denied entry and placed back on the arriving vessel to be returned to the point of origin,” the declaration reads.
“All residents of American Samoa travelling to affected countries will be subject to Department of Public Health screening policies to ensure compliance with measles vaccinations at all ports of entry.”
The declaration follows reports that two young children who came from Samoa are being quarantined at the L.B.J. Hospital for measles.
According to the Governor’s declaration, the measure has been taken to protect American Samoa residents.
“The current vaccination rates in American Samoa are not sufficient to prevent the spread of the measles virus from person to person without further action and that suspected cases are now present in the territory,” the declaration reads.
Talofa Airways confirmed that the declaration is already effective.
According to the receptionist, a passenger must provide the immunisation confirmation letter; otherwise they cannot board the flight to American Samoa.
"The passenger's access into American Samoa will be denied and they will have to return."
The same rules apply for Samoa Airways passengers.
The move is likely to throw some Samoans' end-of-travel plans into disarray.
The head of American Samoa's Department of Public Health, Motusa Tuileama Nua, last week told the Samoa Observer the territory was bracing for an earlier-than-usual influx of arrivals from Samoa because of the measles-driven early finish to the school year.
One traveller to American Samoa said the requirement is ridiculous.
"Asking us to fork up these confirmation forms last minute is such an inconvenience,” said Fata Tulimaseali’i.
“I was not aware they are now enforcing it as there was no public notice issued by the airlines. So this means, we will have to see a doctor and ask for a medical certificate and that will cost money.”
Another woman said she was disappointed because they were not aware of it until they checked in at Fagali’i.
In Tonga, suspected measles cases has climbed to 177. This has led to the closure of all Government primary schools.
For Samoa the latest data reveals that 716 suspected and 48 confirmed (via blood tests sent overseas which can take weeks to process) cases of measles with 40 per cent admitted to hospitals.
The Samoa Shipping Corporation issued a notice on Thursday night informing the travelling public between Apia and Pago Pago over the cancellation.
“Due to prevention of measles disease and declarations requested from the Government of American Samoa, therefore the trip today Thursday 14th November 2019 will cancelled and postpone to next week Thursday 21st November 2019.”