HONOLULU — Dozens of Hawaii health care workers have returned to their homes across the state after voluntarily providing measles vaccinations to thousands of Samoan residents, officials said.
A team of 76 health care workers and support staff went to Samoa for a two-day medical mission to ensure residents in the independent nation of Samoa were immunized from the highly contagious virus, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports.
“You have scores of people dying, and the society is paralyzed,” said Honolulu surgeon Paulus Tsai. “Basically life has come to a standstill for the island.”
Samoa declared a state of emergency and complete shutdown of government and business operations while vaccination teams searched for residents susceptible to the disease, health officials said.
About 34,000 people were immunized over two days, officials said.
“Of all the efforts to save children around the world, immunization has the most dramatic impact. Everybody came together with their aloha to unite and support Samoa and attack this disease head-on in a way that will make a permanent difference in the lives of the people,” Straub Medical Center family physician Dale Glenn said.
The mission was coordinated by medical doctor and Lt. Gov. Josh Green who worked with Samoan leaders, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, officials said.
More than 500 people and groups responded ready to volunteer about 2600 miles (4,200 kilometers) southwest of Hawaii, officials said.
“I hope the younger generation will realize health care can also touch other people’s live and can be a way for them to make things better for their society. It’s protecting their future generations,” Tsai said.
Since the outbreak started in mid-October, more than 60 people have died, mostly children, and more than 4,000 were infected, health officials said.