American Samoa warns against faked vaccine letters
Samoan citizens have been caught using fraudulent letters, in an attempt to bypass restrictions that American Samoa authorities have imposed to contain the spread of measles into their territory.
The American territory last week made it mandatory for all visiting Samoan citizens to carry proof that they have been vaccinated, as part of a public health emergency that was declared, after two Samoan nationals were quarantined as suspected cases.
The American Samoa Director of Health, Motusa Tuileama Nua, told the Samoa Observer that they've already had cases of Samoan citizens submitting "falsified documents" upon arrival in the territory.
He said they will not condone the illegal practice and those who submit illegal documentation will be dealt with.
“In light of the recent discovery we will no longer accept any other medical letter but, the immunisation booklet and confirmation letter from the Ministry of Health,” he said.
“Consider this a warning. We will not take lightly to anyone trying to make their ways into our Island using falsified documents."
Last week, American Samoa Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga declared the public health emergency.
To date four travelers from Samoa have been denied entry into the American territory, after they failed to provide the required immunisation documentation.
Motusa said a telephone conference with Samoa’s Ministry of Health Director General, Leausa Dr Take Naseri was held regarding the matter.
“The letter from the M.O.H. must have the signature of Leausa or his designee Dr Thomsen and it must be under the letterhead of the Ministry and their official stamp is required as well," he said.
“We are not trying to make to make it difficult for our brothers and sisters from Samoa to travel over. However, we are in a crisis and precautionary measures must be adhered [to]."
According to Motusa, this arrangement is only applicable to citizens of Samoa.
Motusa declined to specify how many Samoa residents attempted to enter the territory using faked documents, but he confirmed that letters were downloaded from the internet and were even typed by the passengers themselves.
“We have letters that were typed up by the passenger and it does not have any contact information of the physician - it is clearly a bogus document. This is illegal so don't resort to this type of activity," he warned.
“Those who are U.S. citizens and U.S. nationals should also provide their immunisation card at entry point, otherwise they will be in isolation up to 14 days.”
He concluded that new required documents should accompany the travel documents when flying to American Samoa.
“And to avoid any mishaps Samoa citizens are urged or anyone heading to Tutuila, must provide immunization proof, it is that simple."
Efforts to get comments from Leausa were unsuccessful as of press time.
Samoa Airways Chief Executive Officer, Seiuli Alvin Tuala, last weekend announced that all passengers travelling to or intending to travel to American Samoa should provide proof of immunisation.
“On our aircraft that all visitors must now also provide proof of measles immunity as a condition of entry into the territory of American Samoa as per an emergency declaration from the Governor of American Samoa.”
In relation to the two children who were put in quarantine last week, Motusa advised that they are recovering.
“They will most likely be released next week,” he said.
Last Friday night, Acting Prime Minister and Health Minister, Faimalotoa Kika Stowers-Ah Kau, declared a state of emergency in Samoa in response to the measles epidemic.
The orders include compulsory vaccinations, a crackdown on public gatherings and the involvement of the Police to keep the peace and provide support where needed. All schools, including universities, have also been ordered to close with the exams deferred indefinitely.