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MEASLES EPIDEMIC UPDATE: Fatalities in Samoa now at 60

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi in a mask with sick child
Source: RNZI & Samoa Govt Press Secretariat

Apia, SAMOA — The death toll from Samoa's measles epidemic has risen to 60, with five deaths recorded in the past 24 hours and the BBC reporting families that have not been vaccinated against measles have been asked to hang a red flag outside their homes to help fight the deadly outbreak.

The Ministry of Health said another 171 cases of measles recorded since Tuesday bringing the total to more than 4000.

Of those who are ill, 177 people remain in hospital, including 20 children in critical condition.

It's the eighth day the death toll has risen.

Samoa is racing to immunise its entire population and on Thursday and Friday most government offices and public services will shut down to assist the effort.

All non-essential domestic travel will be banned on both days as as vaccination units cross the country, and people are being told to stay at home and wait for the units to arrive.

All private-sector businesses except hotels, accommodation services and the morgue will have to shut down.

As of Tuesday, the Ministry of Health said 73 percent of children aged 6 months to four years - the most at-risk group - on the two main islands of Upolu and Savai'i had been vaccinated.

It said 86 per cent of children aged 5 to 19, and 79 per cent of women aged 20 to 35, had also been vaccinated.

On Monday, Samoa expanded the eligibility of the vaccination programme, which has been made mandatory under local law. Measles vaccinations are now available for people aged 6 months to 60 years.

Prime Minister of Samoa has threatened police will jail people who discourage vaccinations and promise healing by alternative methods, and though many people are visiting traditional healers, not all the practitioners are making claims about cures.


The Orders are as follows:

(1) that all (PRIVATE AND PUBLIC) Offices, Services, businesses and operations usually open to the public in Samoa, are to close from 7:00am – 5:00pm on Thursday 5th and Friday 6th December 2019 (“closure period”) with the following to apply:

(a) no vehicle is permitted on the road unless it is a vehicle belonging to an exempt service from the public sector or a vehicle being used to seek law enforcement or medical assistance; and

(b) inter-island travels between Upolu and Savaii are prohibited during the closure period, unless travel is for the purposes of the National Emergency Operation Centre (“NEOC”) or of seeking medical assistance or travelling overseas;

(c) all members of the public are asked and encouraged to remain at their places of residence to await the vaccination units being mobilized for the MMR vaccination plan;

(d) all members of the public that are vaccinated are encouraged to confirm the details of his or her name, date of birth, place of residence for entry onto the NEOC database (whether recorded manually or electronically);

  1. (2) that the following are exempt services that are permitted to operate during the closure period:
  2. Public sector services
  3. (a) hospital; (b) morgue; (c) fire and emergency services; (d) search and rescue services; (e) police services; (f) security services; (g) shipping services; (h) civil aviation services; (i) communication services; (j) Samoa Water Authority services and the Electric Power Corporation services; (k) National Emergency Operation Centre; (l) Petrol stations used by Government;
  4. Private sector services
  5. Hotel and accommodation services; Communication services; morgue
  6. (3) that employees of exempt services in operation during the closure period are to be given permission by employers to attend where required to receiving the required MMR vaccination, and are to be paid the rate applied on a normal working day; and
  7. (4) that Government employees where appropriate are to be deployed as instructed under the National Emergency Operations Centre’s mass MMR vaccination plan to be held on 5th and 6th December 2019.
  8. (5) in order to ensure records of vaccination and a review of final coverage, all individuals vaccinated will confirm their names, date of birth, village of residence, gender and confirm their date of vaccination. This will then be recorded by the mobile NEOC staff, manually and/or on the recorded online data collection form. (Those recorded manually at first will then be recorded later by the online data collection).
  9. [source: Samoa Press Secretariat]