Breaking NewsPerspective

Samoa to halt public, government services to assist in measles outbreak

Samoa will shut down all public and government services on Dec. 5 and 6 to assist in a mass vaccination campaign to combat a large measles outbreak that has killed 53 people, including 48 children aged younger than 5 years.

Samoan Prime Minster Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Neioti Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi made the announcement in a state address. All civil servants except those who work with electricity and water will assist in the vaccination campaign, CNN reported. The campaign has immunized more than 58,000 people since it began on Nov. 20, according to the Samoan government.

As of Monday, the outbreak had grown to include 3,728 cases — 60% of them occurring in children younger than age 10 years, according to government figures. The small South Pacific island nation declared a state of emergency over the outbreak on Nov. 15. It has closed schools and banned children from public spaces.

The outbreak comes amid a resurgence of measles around the world. Globally, cases of the highly infectious disease surged 31% in 2017, driven by gaps in vaccination coverage. Four European countries recently lost their measles-free status, and the United States came close to losing its status due to a nearly yearlong outbreak in New York that sickened more than 600.

Among the 53 individuals who have died in the Samoa outbreak, none were vaccinated, according to CNN. Between 2017 and 2018, measles vaccination coverage in the country declined from 74% to 34%, according to estimated data published by UNICEF and WHO.

According to WHO, for a country to establish herd immunity, two-dose measles vaccination coverage must reach 95%. The campaign in Samoa is supported by UNICEF, which has delivered 115,500 doses of measles vaccines to the island.

“Children are the most at risk during a measles outbreak,” Sheldon Yett, UNICEF Pacific representative, said in a news release. “UNICEF is working together with WHO to support governments in the Pacific to respond to those communities affected and to ensure vaccines are readily available.” – by Marley Ghizzone

References:

CNN. Samoa to shut government to deal with deadly measles outbreak. https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/02/health/samoa-measles-intl-hnk/index.html. Accessed December 2, 2019.

CNN. Samoa declares state of emergency after measles deaths. https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/18/health/samoa-measles-emergency-intl-scli/index.html. Accessed December 2, 2019.

Twitter. Government of Samoa, @samoagovt. https://twitter.com/samoagovt/status/1201285534368190464?s=21. Accessed December 2, 2019.

WHO. Vaccination vital to protect Pacific communities against measles. https://www.who.int/samoa/news/detail/06-11-2019-vaccination-vital-to-protect-pacific-communities-against-measles. Accessed December 2, 2019.

WHO. Samoa: WHO and UNICEF estimates of immunization coverage: 2018 revision. https://www.who.int/immunization/monitoring_surveillance/data/wsm.pdf. Accessed December 2, 2019.

UNICEF. News Note 2: Pacific Measles Outbreak. https://www.unicef.org/pacificislands/press-releases/news-note-2-pacific-measles-outbreak. Accessed December 2, 2019.

Samoa will shut down all public and government services on Dec. 5 and 6 to assist in a mass vaccination campaign to combat a large measles outbreak that has killed 53 people, including 48 children aged younger than 5 years.

Samoan Prime Minster Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Neioti Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi made the announcement in a state address. All civil servants except those who work with electricity and water will assist in the vaccination campaign, CNN reported. The campaign has immunized more than 58,000 people since it began on Nov. 20, according to the Samoan government.

As of Monday, the outbreak had grown to include 3,728 cases — 60% of them occurring in children younger than age 10 years, according to government figures. The small South Pacific island nation declared a state of emergency over the outbreak on Nov. 15. It has closed schools and banned children from public spaces.

The outbreak comes amid a resurgence of measles around the world. Globally, cases of the highly infectious disease surged 31% in 2017, driven by gaps in vaccination coverage. Four European countries recently lost their measles-free status, and the United States came close to losing its status due to a nearly yearlong outbreak in New York that sickened more than 600.

Among the 53 individuals who have died in the Samoa outbreak, none were vaccinated, according to CNN. Between 2017 and 2018, measles vaccination coverage in the country declined from 74% to 34%, according to estimated data published by UNICEF and WHO.

According to WHO, for a country to establish herd immunity, two-dose measles vaccination coverage must reach 95%. The campaign in Samoa is supported by UNICEF, which has delivered 115,500 doses of measles vaccines to the island.

“Children are the most at risk during a measles outbreak,” Sheldon Yett, UNICEF Pacific representative, said in a news release. “UNICEF is working together with WHO to support governments in the Pacific to respond to those communities affected and to ensure vaccines are readily available.” – by Marley Ghizzone

References:

CNN. Samoa to shut government to deal with deadly measles outbreak. https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/02/health/samoa-measles-intl-hnk/index.html. Accessed December 2, 2019.

CNN. Samoa declares state of emergency after measles deaths. https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/18/health/samoa-measles-emergency-intl-scli/index.html. Accessed December 2, 2019.

Twitter. Government of Samoa, @samoagovt. https://twitter.com/samoagovt/status/1201285534368190464?s=21. Accessed December 2, 2019.

WHO. Vaccination vital to protect Pacific communities against measles. https://www.who.int/samoa/news/detail/06-11-2019-vaccination-vital-to-protect-pacific-communities-against-measles. Accessed December 2, 2019.

WHO. Samoa: WHO and UNICEF estimates of immunization coverage: 2018 revision. https://www.who.int/immunization/monitoring_surveillance/data/wsm.pdf. Accessed December 2, 2019.

UNICEF. News Note 2: Pacific Measles Outbreak. https://www.unicef.org/pacificislands/press-releases/news-note-2-pacific-measles-outbreak. Accessed December 2, 2019.

    Perspective
    Peter Hotez

    Peter Hotez

    This is a devastating measles epidemic, given the large number of deaths and seriously ill among a relatively small island population. Unfortunately, the number of deaths is continuing to rise. Right now, the focus is on treating the ill and ensuring they have access to ventilators and supportive care while vaccinating the population. Once this outbreak settles, we’ll need to take a hard look at public health communications and conduct an investigation on the role of the anti-vaccine movement in fueling the decline in vaccine coverage that led to the epidemic. We’re hearing scattered reports about this aspect, but it needs to be looked into.

    • Peter Hotez, MD, PhD, FASTMH, FAAP
    • Professor of pediatrics
      Dean, National School of Tropical Medicine
      Baylor College of Medicine
      Co-director, Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development

    Disclosures: Hotez reports no relevant financial disclosures.