DOH Director rubbish claims by LBJ CMO
The Department of Health has rubbished claims by the suspended hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr Joseph Shumway that the recent measles outbreak was fake in efforts to bring in federal dollars.
The Director of Health, Motusa Tuileama Nua gave a comprehensive timeline when the measles surfaced in the territory.
On April 18, 2023, the LBJ Laboratory Services informed the American Samoa Department of Health (ASDOH) about a confirmed measles case presented on March 23 (three weeks earlier).
This sample was sent to a contracted commercial laboratory in Los Angeles, California, for confirmatory testing. Between April 19-22, 31 patients meeting the case definition for probable measles were seen.
Three children under 6 months old were admitted for inpatient care at LBJ for suspected measles during this period. These children were ineligible for measles vaccination, said Motusa.
At the same time, CDC reached out to DOH to offer assistance. Due to the highly contagious nature of the measles virus and the risk it posed, particularly to unvaccinated children, and the threshold for a measles outbreak was exceeded (one case), the Office of the Governor announced the Declaration of Public Health Emergency on April 24 2023.
Responding diligently, the American Samoa Department of Health immediately and aggressively closed daycares and all schools.
Throughout the outbreak, there were 2 confirmed measles cases, 82 probable cases identified syndromically, with ages ranging from 2 months to 13 years old. On June 8 2023, a decision was made to conclude the Declaration of Public Health Emergency, thereby ending the official status of the emergency.
"The Department of Health wants to unequivocally state that the measles outbreak declaration was in no way a failed strategy or an attempt to obtain funding from the federal government deceptively.
"It was made based on the above-stated facts and in light of neighbouring Samoa’s measles experience in 2019/2020 to protect the community, particularly vulnerable populations such as unvaccinated children.
"The allocation of resources and funding from the local government aimed to mount an effective response to contain the outbreak, provide medical care, and prevent further spread.
"This highlights the department’s self-sufficiency in managing public health crises within our jurisdiction, utilizing available resources to support necessary measures without relying on external sources."
Director said during this period, the DOH diligently sought financial support from the Department of the Interior to aid our response. However, they could not secure the desired funding during that time frame.
"We want to assure the public that the American Samoa Department of Health operates with the utmost transparency, integrity, and adherence to rigorous protocols.
"The lessons learned from this experience have significantly enhanced our capabilities to identify and respond to future measles and other infectious disease outbreaks."
He said their primary focus remains on safeguarding lives, preventing the spread of infectious diseases, and promoting the importance of vaccination as a critical preventive measure.
The DOH remains committed to ensuring the health and well-being of our community.