16 Nov 2019

Unvaccinated visitors denied entry to American Samoa

12:07 pm on 16 November 2019

American Samoa has turned away four travellers for not having proof of vaccination for measles.

The measure was introduced as part of a public health emergency recently declared, to try and prevent a measles outbreak, in the US territory.

Measles screening at Pago Pago International Airport.

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

The Director of Health Motusa Tuileama Nua said two of the visitors who were turned back were Samoans travelling from Australia and the others had travelled from Apia.

The affected travellers made it off their plane but when they couldn't produce proof of vaccination authorities put them in a quarantine area until they could be reboarded on the aircraft they had arrived in for its return flight.

Motusa reminded local residents sponsoring people travelling to American Samoa to inform their friends and relatives that they must present proof that they have been immunized for measles before they will be allowed into the territory.

Clinics staying open late to immunise children

The health director said the community health clinics have been staying open until 9pm at night, both at Fagaalu and Tafuna because of the influx of people coming in with their children to be immunized.

Many adults have also been crowding the health centers wanting to be vaccinated but with additional stocks of vaccinations for adults still on their way only those who have had to travel long distances to get to the centers are being served at the moment.

But Motusa said although there is a shortage of MMR vaccines for adults they have enough for children.

MMR vaccinations underway in American Samoa.

MMR vaccinations underway in American Samoa. Photo: RNZ Pacific / Monica Miller

When asked about a nursing shortage which has forced the closure of two community health centres at Leone and Amouli the health director said they are looking to hire five nurses to get the centres reopened as soon as possible.

Motusa Tuileama Nua said they also have a number of staff still on emergency leave which is a contributing to the shortage of nurses.