4 Dec 2019

Samoa measles epidemic: Death toll rises to 60

8:29 pm on 4 December 2019

The death toll from Samoa's measles epidemic has risen to 60, with five deaths recorded in the past 24 hours.

Mobile units have been going out every day taking vaccines to villages.

Mobile units have been going out every day taking vaccines to villages. Photo: RNZ / Alex Perrottet

All but eight of the dead were children aged under four.

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.

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