COVID-19 preparedness and response in the Pitcairn Islands: keeping one of the world’s smallest and most isolated populations safe in a pandemic

Authors

  • Darralyn Griffiths Pitcairn Islands Health Centre, Pitcairn Islands
  • Kevin Walters Pitcairn Islands Health Centre, Pitcairn Islands https://orcid.org/0009-0002-7173-1436
  • Sean T Casey World Health Organization Regional Office for the Western Pacific, Manila, Philippines; School of Population Health, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2934-3643

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.5365/wpsar.2024.15.2.1068

Keywords:

Pitcairn, COVID-19, pandemic, Pacific islands

Abstract

Problem: While the COVID-19 pandemic threatened the entire world, the extremely remote Pitcairn Islands faced unique vulnerabilities. With only a physician and a nurse to care for an ageing population of fewer than 40 residents, and with very limited referral pathways, Pitcairn encountered distinct challenges in preparing for and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Context: The Pitcairn Islands is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland consisting of four islands in the South Pacific: Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno. Pitcairn is the only inhabited island with a local resident population of approximately 31 people, around half of whom were over 60 years old in 2023. The islands are only accessible by sea and are located more than 2000 km from the nearest referral hospital in French Polynesia.

Actions: Pitcairn’s Island Council took aggressive action to delay the importation of SARS-CoV-2, vaccinate its small population and prepare for the potential arrival of the virus.

Outcomes: As of May 2024, Pitcairn was one of the only jurisdictions in the world not to have had a single COVID-19 hospitalization or death. Nevertheless, the pandemic presented the islands’ population with many economic, social and health challenges.

Discussion: Pitcairn’s population avoided COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths despite its elderly population’s vulnerability to COVID-19, a significant level of comorbidities, and limited clinical management capabilities and options for emergency referrals. The pandemic highlighted some of the population’s health vulnerabilities while also underscoring some of their innate strengths.

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Published

27-06-2024

How to Cite

1.
Griffiths D, Walters K, Casey ST. COVID-19 preparedness and response in the Pitcairn Islands: keeping one of the world’s smallest and most isolated populations safe in a pandemic. Western Pac Surveill Response J [Internet]. 2024 Jun. 27 [cited 2024 Jul. 16];15(2):7. Available from: https://ojs.wpro.who.int/ojs/index.php/wpsar/article/view/1068

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Section

Lessons from the Field

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