Samoa’s unvaccinated citizens to show red flags in country-wide vaccination against measles

December 6, 2019

The tiny Pacific nation of 200,000 is to widen its vaccination programme against measles, a highly infectious and deadly disease outbreak. Previous efforts were concentrated on children, who marked most of the dead, but will now include the entire population in a new vaccination campaign. The death toll from the outbreak has recently risen to 60, with 171 new cases in 24 hours, bringing the national total to 4,052, according to the health latest report.

Immunisation has been made compulsory under a state of emergency imposed last month and health officials have since asked unvaccinated families to identify themselves by way of a red cloth/flag tied to the front of their houses to indicate that family members have not yet been vaccinated. Even though most of the infections are contained in urban areas, officials will move across the country to administer vaccinations.

Samoa has received assistance from a number of countries including Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, and the US but its Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said vaccination was “the only answer to the epidemic” and has urged the public to heed the new vaccination advice.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) medical officer for West Pacific, Jose Hagan, said the rising death toll in Samoa was a grim reminder of the danger posed by the disease.

“Unfortunately the case (to) fatality rate of measles is much higher than people realise – it comes as quite a surprise when we see how fatal it can be.”

At present, the death rate in Samoa is less than 2% at present, but can reach up to 5% in developing countries.Cases have skyrocketed in Europe this year, leading to Britain, Greece, the Czech Republic and Albania all losing their measles-free status in August while the US narrowly maintained its “measles eliminated” status, despite experiencing its worst outbreak since 1992.

Hagen said increased access to measles vaccines was estimated to have saved 21 million lives over the past 20 years. Unfortunately, lack of access to proper healthcare and misinformation on vaccines has led to the re-emergence of measles – WHO warns of outbreaks happening all over the world if complacency about the need to vaccinate continues.


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