Samoa makes measles vaccine mandatory to stop deadly outbreak

Grant Boone
November 20, 2019

"On 15 November the Government of Samoa declared a State of Emergency as the numbers of people infected with measles continues to rise and the hospital system is under strain". The island state declared a measles epidemic late in October after seven suspected measles-related deaths have been recorded.

The majority of cases have involved children younger than four years old. They counted 716 measles cases reported, with almost 100 people still hospitalised with 15 in intensive care.

"The way it is going now and the poor (immunisation) coverage, we are anticipating the worst to come", Samoa's Director General of Health Leausa Take Naseri was cited in the health ministry statement as saying.

The declaration also includes a ban on children attending public gatherings.

As of this weekend, Samoa's government says vaccination is now a mandatory legal requirement.

Hospitals are also implementing new policies with only one family member or caregiver allowed to attend to a patient and unless they are requiring medical attention, no child under the age of 18 can attend a medical facility.

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Samoa is preparing to roll out a mandatory vaccine program in a bid to contain a deadly measles outbreak, but public health experts have warned a major change in community attitudes is what is really needed.

New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Winston Peters announced further support to Samoa on Monday as the government of Samoa responded to a serious measles outbreak. "It is in everybody's interests that we work together to stop its spread". He said that only about two-thirds of Samoans had been vaccinated, leaving the others vulnerable to the virus. American Samoa announced a public health emergency over a measles outbreak on Thursday.

"But we didn't deal with the problem", she said.

Visitor who fail to provide a proof of measles immunisation will be denied entry to American Samoa.

Since then, 251 cases of confirmed or suspected measles have been identified, the ministry said.

In Tonga, about 900km from Samoa, the ministry of health last week said an outbreak of measles in the country occurred following the return of a squad of Tongan rugby players from New Zealand.

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