Article by
Dani Reiter
Updated
November 20th, 2019

Samoa’s Measles Outbreak Claims 15 Fatalities

MMR vaccination suggested when visiting Samoa by the CDC and WHO

samoan sea

The Government of Samoa officially declared a state of emergency 4-weeks after a measles outbreak which has claimed 15 lives.

According to a UNICEF press release on November 19, 2019, Samoan health officials have confirmed 14 children and 1 adult fatality related to this measles virus outbreak.

All Samoan schools have been temporarily closed and children under 17 years old have been advised by the Government not to attend public gatherings to contain the spread of this vaccine-preventable disease.

Measles is a highly contagious virus, measles is a disease that spreads from person to person by breathing, coughing, or sneezing.

UNICEF said in this statement it ‘has deployed health and communication staff in Samoa to boost the government’s immunization campaign and delivered a total of 110,500 doses of measles-containing vaccines (100,000 MR and 10,500 MMR) and 30,000 Vitamin A tablets. 

In addition, 6 refrigerators and three emergency response trolleys used as immunization service stations are being shipped to Samoa.

Measles coverage in Samoa was 40 percent for the 1st vaccine dose and just 28 percent for the 2nd measles vaccination in 2018. To achieve herd immunity objectives the WHO recommends 95% second vaccination coverage.

UNICEF said it is working closely with the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) in Samoa to target children 6 months to 19 years of age and women who are not pregnant between 20-35 years.

Samoa is located south of the equator, about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand, in the Polynesian region of the Pacific Ocean

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In other western Pacific countries, UNICEF has delivered measles vaccines to Tonga, Fiji, and Niue, and has worked with the governments of Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Cook Islands, Niue, Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia in conducting their measles immunization campaigns and developing their preparedness plans for an outbreak.

UNICEF and the WHO jointly prepared a communication toolkit and resources for measles prevention, which was immediately shared with Samoa, Tonga and Fiji, as the first Pacific Island Countries affected by the measles outbreak.

Previously, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its vaccination suggestions when visiting Samoa to include the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, varicella, and the annual flu shot. 

Furthermore, the CDC suggested Yellow Fever, Hepatitis A, and Typhoid vaccinations for certain Samoa visitors on August 2, 2019.

The CDC says any vaccine can cause a side effect, which should be reported to a healthcare provider asap.

UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.

Pacific Island vaccine news is published by Vax-Before-Travel