The Samoa Medical Association (S.M.A.) has appealed to the Government to consider undertaking more surveillance testing for COVID-19 in the community.
The Association, which represents most of Samoa’s doctors in public and private practice and has a membership of 110, made the appeal for more testing in a letter dated 29 January 2022 addressed to the Minister for Health Valasi Tafito Selesele.
Obtained by Radio Polynesia, the three-page correspondence was signed by the S.M.A. President Dr. Gogosinaepeleivaai Atropa Belladonna Potoi and copied to the Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers, the National Emergency Operations Centre (N.E.O.C.) Chairman and members, the Director-General for Health Leausa Dr Take Naseri and various other public officials including selected media.
Focusing on the country’s current 27 positive COVID-19 cases, Gogosina pointed to historical cases of medical emergencies in Samoa that resulted in fatalities, and made specific mention of the 1918 Spanish influenza that killed 20 per cent of Samoa’s population at that time and the measles epidemic in 2019 that claimed the lives of at least 80 children.
“Our next door neighbours in American Samoa because of their strict United States of America (USA) quarantine rules did not allow the MV Talune ship with infected–positive Spanish Influenza cases into the Pago Pago port hence no one in American Samoa got infected,” the S.M.A. President’s letter reads.
“The measles epidemic in Samoa in 2019 killed at least 80 Samoan children.
“The main underlying issue was the low measles vaccination rates, hence a low herd immunity in our community.
“Lesson learned: importance of high vaccination coverage amongst our infants and children.”
Looking at the country’s current status in terms of COVID-19, Gogosina said the S.M.A. membership is grateful that Samoa did have cases in the community over the two years.
However, the Association calls for caution and vigilance now that there are multiple cases of the coronavirus, added Gogosina as health authorities “navigate through the alert levels”.
The letter is published verbatim below
29th January 2022
Lau Afioga i le Minisita Soifua Maloloina o Samoa
Honorable Valasi Luapitofanua Toomaga Tafito Selesele
Samoa Medical Association (SMA) Concerns regarding the current 27 positive COVID cases under Quarantine in Samoa
It is with the utmost respect, a humble heart and a patriotic spirit that I, as the current President of the Samoa Medical Association (SMA) hereby write this letter to you our Honourable Minister of Health on behalf of SMA to state our Position, Concerns and put forward Recommendations regarding Samoa’s current twenty seven positive cases for you and our Government’s kind consideration.
Congratulations to the Government t of Samoa (HRPP end of 2019, 2020 FAST: April – July 2021) for the great Collaborative PreventiveMeasures undertaken over the last two years – re: strict quarantine measures and closure of our borders).
2. Brief Background – Lessons learned from Pandemic and Epidemic of relevance in Samoa.
2.1 The Spanish Flu Influenza of 1918 killed at least 20 per cent of Samoa’s population at the time mainly through our New Zealand Colonial rulers at the time who allowed the MV Talune ship with infected – positive Spanish Influenza cases into the Apia Port with No Quarantine.
Our next door neighbours in American Samoa because of their strict United States of America (USA) Quarantine Rules did not allow the MV Taluneship with infected – positive Spanish Influenza cases into the Pago Pago Port hence No one in American Samoa got infected.
2.2 The Measles Epidemic in Samoa in 2019 killed at least 80 Samoan children.The main underlying issue was the low Measles Vaccination Rates, hence a low Herd Immunity in our community.Lesson Learned: Importance of High Vaccination Coverage amongst our infants and children
3. Concerns and Recommendations
We would like to offer our advice and support as the Samoa Medical Association who represent the majority of doctors in public and private of 110 doctors.We are extremely grateful to previously not have any covid case in the community for the past two years and to have minimal cases in quarantine for those travelling to Samoa. God has protected us through all the great measures that have been put in place to protect our nation.
We as an Association advise the following :
3.1 We advise Caution and Vigilance :
We are asking that we remain cautious and vigilant as we navigate through the ALERT LEVELS. We fully support Public health’s efforts to do contact tracing and surveillance testing in the community. We would like to see more surveillance testing in the community and entrust this to the advice of our specialists in Ministry of Health. It would greatly provide assurance knowing that more testing has been done in the community and to have this readily shared would be helpful. Wefully support our Public health team in Ministry of Health and we are here to support and advocate for such measures.
Although to date there is no community transmission we advise caution that as a nation we must do our part to protect each other and ways we can do this are stated below.
3.2 We advise to get Samoa Fully vaccinated now :
God has been so gracious to Samoa. We have a great opportunity to fully vaccinate our nation. Samoa did it during Measles and we can do it for this pandemic.
We advocate for full vaccination ( 2 Vaccine doses ) in those aged 12 years up and encourage everyone that may still not have been vaccinated to get their doses now.
We advocate to start full vaccination of our children 5 years to 11 years of age. We await the advice of the Ministry of Health for when that will happen.
We advocate strongly for getting all those eligible starting with our front line workers (having completed 2 vaccination doses at least 6 months ago ) to receive their booster dose once that is made available. We advise to wait for the advice from Ministry of Health for when this will be made available.
3.3 We advise to each do our part
The enemy here is the virus and not each other. We advise that we stand together and each do our part to protect each other. We have information of how to protect ourselves. We must still at this stage avoid any crowds , do 2 meter distancing when out in public , wash our hands , if you are sick then to stay home , wearing your mask should be the norm now , we must be encouraged to use the tools available like the Samoa Tracer app which is readily available at this stage to help trace contacts. Be kind to each other and to remember that we are all in this together. “United we stand and divided we fall.”
3.4 We encourage planning and sharing readily of the correct information
We advise that we use the information that is shared readily on the Ministry of Health website and Face book page for updates. Also, advise forward planning as we do for any disaster , it being a hurricane , flood or pandemic. Encourage everyone if possible to buy and stock up enough food , water and other necessities for a few days to a week if able in the event there is another lock down. We entrust that there is going to be a review of the current Alert Levels that has been shared to the Public so that it includes more detail and reflects our current situation and advice as the information with COVID 19 is always changing so we too must adapt accordingly.
E avea lenei avanoa e matou te momoli atu ai Faamanuiaga ma Alofaaga mo lau Afioga I le Minisita o le Soifua Maloloina aua le feagai ai ma ou tiute faa-le Malo, ae maise ai i taimi faigata faapenei.
Ia faamanuia tele le Atua i lau Afioga faapea le paia ma le mamalu o le tatou Malo i ona tulaga faalupelupeina.
Ma le faaaloalo tele e tatau ai,
Dr. Gogosinaepeleivaai Atropa Belladonna Potoi
President, Samoa Medical Association
Cc: Honorable Prime Minister Afioga Fiame Naomi Mataafa Mulinuu II
Cc : Afioga Minisita o le Kapeneta
cc : Chairman and members of NEOC
cc : Director General of Health Leausa Dr.Take Naseri
cc: DDG Public Health Tagaloa Dr.Robert Thomsen
cc: DDG Clinical Health Services Dr.Glen Fatupaito
cc. Chairman of Samoa Medical Council Papalii Dr.Sam Petaia
cc: President of Samoa Association of General Practitioners
cc: Vice chancellor of Oceania University of Medicine Manufalealili Dr.Viali Lameko
cc: Vice Chancellor of National University of Samoa Aiono Dr. Alec Ekeroma
cc: Head of School of Medicine NUS Dr.Filipina Amosa
cc: President of Samoa Nurses Association RNM Solialofi Papalii
cc : Samoa Medical Association Members