Samoa measles outbreak claims life of 15 children

The father Tu'ivale Luamanuvae of Lauli'i Village beside the grave of his three children who died of measles

Samoa's National Emergency Coordination Centre, which is managing the epidemic, is understood to be preparing a statement.

The epidemic has come as the immunization rate against measles has plummeted in Samoa in the years since a medical mistake led to the deaths of two infants and spurred widespread mistrust of vaccinations.

Schools were closed from Monday after the government declared an emergency on Saturday.

Health authorities said most of those who died were under the age of 2. They counted 716 measles conditions reported, with almost 100 folk silent hospitalized including 15 in intensive care. The Pacific Islands are bracing for an outbreak of the disease after it kills 15 people in Samoa. Vaccination rates are low - around 30% - however officials are now mandating vaccines for all 200,000 residents.

The Samoa Ministry of Health declared a measles outbreak on October 16, according to UNICEF, who said there had been more than 1000 suspected cases so far.

The immunization rate dropped to as low as 30 percent a year ago from about 60 percent in 2016, according to figures from the World Health Organization.

"It's as bad as you're seeing and probably worse", said Dr. Helen Petousis-Harris, a vaccinologist at the University of Auckland in New Zealand.

A general manager at Counties Manukau Health in New Zealand, Elizabeth Powell, said another three measles-related deaths were yet to be confirmed.

New Zealand High Minister Jacinda Ardern acknowledged Monday it used to be sending 3,000 vaccines to Samoa as well to nurses and scientific affords. "But we see our responsibility as supporting Samoa as they deal with the outbreak, and we are doing that actively". She said New Zealand has for years known it has immunity gaps.

Tonga, Fiji and New Zealand have also reported outbreaks of measles but on a smaller scale than in Samoa.

She said it was also important to boost Samoa's low levels of immunisation and help prevent future outbreaks.



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