APIA, Samoa – November 28, 2019: 7.30pm (SAMOA OBSERVER/Newshub): Children in Samoa between six months to four-years of age remain the most vulnerable due to their low immunisation coverage.
Ministry of Health Director General, Leausa Dr Take Naseri, made reference to this age bracket and their vulnerability during the measles outbreak in a press conference on Wednesday.
Thirty nine people have died so far from measles in Samoa.
Looking at the data he had on hand while expressing his concerns, he said health authorities remain concerned about this age group.
“We were looking at targeted and prioritized group and we are still not satisfied with the coverage of the six months to four years,” he said.
“The other groups are doing steadily but we are still worried that most of the kids are not coming forward, not being brought by their parents to this.”
Leausa said said the Ministry is now gathering data to be reconciled with their own records, in order to get an exact figure and calculate an estimate of the current coverage, with the mass vaccination programme that is currently underway.
He said most of the children who are being taken to the hospital with measles are being presented late to the health authorities.
“The average number is about five to six days since the onset of their sentence and science is they really present it late to the hospital, and associated complications are quite high and most resulted in death,” he added.
A majority of the measles-related deaths are of children below the age of five with Leausa indicating that most of them are not immunised against measles.
“We have been pushing our vaccination and continue to strengthen during this proclamation period and we have now recorded about 32,743 vaccinations that were being given targeting the prioritize age group as you’ve been informed,” he added.
At the enforcement level, the Ministry will soon be supported by medical personnel from French Policy, who come courtesy of the New Caledonia-based regional organisation Pacific Community. Nurses from the Pacific Islands as well as New Zealand and Australia are also expected in Samoa this weekend.
The nurses who are being dispatched to Samoa not only specialise in vaccinations with Leausa saying the MOH has also asked for nurses who specialise in general rounds, intensive care unit and pediatric to share the workload of their local colleagues.
“We are also conscious of their workload. We are also looking at the number of those coming in due to non-measles cases but complications of diabetes and high potential,” he added.
Meanwhile, Newshub reported today that the death toll in Samoa related to the measles epidemic has risen to 39 – up six on Wednesday.
The latest update from the Government of Samoa is that 39 measles-related deaths had occurred, with 2936 cases confirmed. Twenty of the deaths were children aged between a year and four-years-old, while 15 were aged between zero and 11 months.
There were 250 cases recorded in the last 24 hours.
Of the total number of confirmed measles cases, 190 are currently in-patients at health facilities. So far, 849 patients have been admitted to hospital since the outbreak began, with 620 discharged.
Since the start of the Samoa Mass Vaccination Campaign on November 20, nearly 45,000 individuals have been vaccinated. The population of the island nation is just under 200,000.
Some of hospitals are running at 200-300 percent capacity due to the crisis, Dr Scott Wilson told Newshub on Monday.
“These hospitals are not designed to deal with this. The minute you get hospitals running at 200 to 300 percent capacity – I think it speaks for itself. It’s incredibly serious,” he said.
“There have been a few tears. We have admitted at times multiple members of the same family. At one point we had five members of the same family in here.”
It’s reported the disease reached the Pacific nation after someone from Auckland visited Samoa. Between January 1 and November 22 there had been 1678 confirmed cases of measles notified in the Auckland region.
Today, the Auckland Regional Public Health Service also released a statement saying that it had been notified of a passenger with measles on a flight between Samoa and Auckland on November 23.