10 Dec 2019

American Samoa tightens entry as measles fears grow

11:11 am on 10 December 2019

American Samoa has suspended all entry permits and entry permit waivers for those travelling through Samoa and Tonga to American Samoa because of the measles outbreak in Samoa.

American Samoa is bracing itself for the possibility of a measles outbreak.

Photo: RNZ Pacific / Monica Miller

The governor, Lolo Matalasi Moliga, has updated the public health emergency which also provides a 30-day amnesty for overstayers in the territory to correct their immigration status, if they get an MMR shot.

The initial emergency declaration was issued on 13 November and was valid for 30-days.

The new one comes after nine measles case were confirmed in American Samoa.

According to the declaration, only entry permits and entry permit waivers for medical emergency situations will be approved but must be reviewed by the Governor's Office for final approval.

It also states that all foreigners "present in the territory as of today that are without lawful status and considered an 'overstayer', could qualify amnesty if they can confirm receiving vaccinations."

For all residents of American Samoa, the governor declared that travelling to or from countries affected with measles will be subject to Department of Health screening policies and examination to ensure compliance with measles vaccinations at all port of entry.

The declaration also notes that all public gatherings are all cancelled.

Measles screening at Pago Pago International Airport.

Measles screening at Pago Pago International Airport. Photo: RNZ Pacific / Monica Miller

Meanwhile, the Department of Health has also rolled out a mass vaccination programme for the territory.

Director of Health Motusa Tuileama Nua announced at a special Cabinet meeting that vaccinations will be carried out at Fagaalu and Tafuna for babies aged six months and older as well as first responders until 12 December.

From 13 - 20 December, the rest of the population will be vaccinated at 13 village sites and six clinics.

The village immunisation sites will be at Nu'uuli, Faleniu, Pavaiai, Pago Pago, Fagatogo, Petesa-tai and Petesa-uta, Vailoa, Aua, Fagaalu, Leone, Fagaitua and Amanave.

The government sites for the vaccinations are the clinics in Leone, Tafuna, Fagaalu, Amouli and in Ofu and Tau in Manu'a.

The mass immunisation is targeting an estimated 12,841 people.