25 Nov 2019

Samoa measles epidemic: Death toll reaches 25

4:53 pm on 25 November 2019

The death toll from the measles epidemic in Samoa has now reached 25, the country's top health official has confirmed.

Leausa Take Naseri

Leausa Take Naseri Photo: RNZ Pacific / Autagavai Tipi Autagavai

Director General of Health Leausa Take Naseri said there were also currently 20 children in critical condition in the intensive care unit.

However, 30 children that were in critical condition had since improved and been discharged.

The latest figures show there are more than 2190 suspected cases in the country, with 144 recorded in the last 24 hours.

Immunisation against measles has been made mandatory under law in Samoa and a mass vaccination campaign is underway.

Dr Naseri said support from international partners had been tremendous.

"We know our staff has been able to cope with this, but we are also mindful that they'll be getting tired. So this is why we are...calling for help."

Dr Naseri said French Polynesia was sending three medical staff and 2000 measles' vaccines.

Already, UNICEF has delivered more than 110,000 vaccines - sorely needed in a country where just 26 percent of the population are fully immunised.

Tahiti's team join 34 Australians and 30 New Zealanders on the ground, who have been dispersed among the nation's hospitals, vaccination clinics and mobile vaccine units.

And the mass vaccination drive for the island of Savaii started today with Tuasivi hospital, and all district hospitals sites, providing MMR vaccinations.

The priority remains for the group aged between six-months and 19-years-old.

A live coldchain vaccine delivery of MMR in Samoa.

A live coldchain vaccine delivery of MMR in Samoa. Photo: RNZ Pacific / Jenny Meyer

Australia's Medical Assistance Team last week built a negative pressure eight bed intensive care unit (ICU) to ease the burden on the ICU at Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital.

As well as two deployments of nurses and support staff, New Zealand has contributed 3000 vaccines.

"The government of Samoa really appreciates the support given so far. Overwhelming support from especially our partners Australia, New Zealand and the World Health Organisation and UNICEF," said Dr Naseri.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi on Friday asked private doctors in the country to step in and assist public medical facilities with caring for the sick.

"You know already the state we are in without me having to tell you, come and work together with the doctors we have in the public service," Newsline Samoa reported him saying.

Meanwhile, Samoa government's patrol boat has made an emergency trip to American Samoa to collect oxygen to address a shortage in Apia.

The Nafanua II arrived in Pago Pago this morning before returning to Samoa.

It is taking 96 G-size oxygen cylinders.

The territory's Director of Health, Motusa Tuileama Nua, said Samoa asked for assistance because their oxygen supply at the local ICU was depleting faster than anticipated.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs