Samoa on lockdown for two-day measles vaccination campaign

Henrietta Strickland
December 5, 2019

The reason? To reach as many people as possible in two days to give them a fighting case against a growing measles epidemic.

This brings the outbreak total to 4,217 measles cases and 62 measles related deaths.

Samoa began a two-day shutdown on Thursday when authorities embarked on an unprecedented mass vaccination campaign to contain a deadly measles outbreak that killed 62 people, mostly young children, in the Pacific island nation.

Residents were advised to obey a dawn-to-dusk curfew, staying in their homes and displaying a red flag if any occupants were not yet immunised.

Most of those who have died from the virus are young, with 54 deaths among children aged 4 or younger.

The Samoa Observer newspaper stated the usually bustling capital of Apia was a ghost city, with exclusively birds nesting within the rooftops and stray canine roaming the streets.

Even Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi's residence had a red flag fluttering outside it on Thursday, with the leader saying his nephew had recently arrived from Australia and needed a measles shot. He stated one problem was that lots of people hadn't thought-about that measles might be lethal.

"A few of our individuals pay a go to to conventional healers considering that measles is a typical tropical illness, which it's not", the prime minister stated.

As the outbreak took off last month, the Samoa government declared a state of emergency.

Officials suspended non-essential government services to allow public officials to support the vaccination campaign, and ordered all companies to close.

World Health Organisation (WHO) medical officer for the western Pacific, Jose Hagan, said it was a grim reminder of the danger posed by "probably the most infectious disease that we know of".

Samoa's rate has since risen to about 55%, say officials, with 73% of infants - the main "at-risk" cohort - now vaccinated on Samoa's main islands of Upolu and Savai'I, according to the island nation's health ministry.

Malielegaoi said he was angered by anecdotal reports some anti-vaccination parents were encouraging their children to hide from the teams to avoid the mandatory injection.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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