American Samoa tightens vaccination requirements for travelers
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — American Samoa's Health Department is stepping up requirements for proof of immunisation for travelers from Samoa entering the territory.
As the Mumps Measles and Rubella vaccine takes 14 days to build up one's immunity to measles, the Department is now requiring vaccinations to have been carried out at least 14 days before travel.
Epidemiologist Dr Aifili John Tufa said they were seeing many travellers getting their shots - just before they travel and that was not enough time for the vaccination to build up immunity.
Dr Tufa said the new protocol was being sent to Samoa's Ministry of Health.
The 14 day vaccination before travel was also being recommended for local residents travelling to Samoa, New Zealand, Tonga and other countries with measles outbreaks.
The MMR vaccination campaign is continuing at the Fagaalu and Tafuna clinics from 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday and 8am to noon on Saturdays.
VACCINATION RATES PAVED WAY FOR ‘HUGE OUTBREAK’
A measles epidemic in Samoa has killed 39 people, with the World Health Organization (WHO) blaming an anti-vaccine messaging campaign for leaving the Pacific island nation vulnerable to the spread of the virus.
The UN health agency warned that a steep decline in vaccination rates in Samoa had paved the way for a “huge outbreak”, with almost 3,000 in a country of just 200,000 people.
Kate O’Brien, director of the WHO’s immunisation department, said in Geneva that “very low coverage of measles vaccine” was to blame for the rapid spread of the highly contagious in the country.
In 2018, only 31% of children under five had been immunised, she said. “When measles enters a country like that, there is a huge group of people who are not immune,” she said.
The tragedy, she said, was that immunisation rates used to be far higher in Samoa, with coverage measured at 84% just four years ago.
Officials have blamed the low rates in part on fears sparked last year when two babies died after receiving measles vaccination shots.
This resulted in the temporary suspension of the country’s immunization program and dented parents’ trust in the vaccine, even though it later turned out the deaths were caused by other medicines that were incorrectly administered.
O’Brien said that an anti-vaccine group had been stoking these fears further with a social media campaign, lamenting that “this is now being measured in the lives of children who have died in the course of this outbreak”.
Misinformation about the safety of vaccines, she said, “has had a very remarkable impact on the immunization program” in Samoa.