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6 December 2019

Interviews with UNICEF staff on the ground in Samoa available

SYDNEY, 6 December 2019: UNICEF is supporting the Government of Samoa to urgently respond to the measles outbreak that has swept the Pacific island nation.

To date, 62 measles related deaths have been recorded by the Government of Samoa with the largest proportion being children under the age of five. Since the outbreak, 4217 measles cases have been reported with 165 recorded in the last 24 hours.

“A mass immunisation campaign is being carried out across the entire country with the aim of increasing vaccination rates from around 30 per cent before the outbreak to 95 per cent as quickly as possible” said UNICEF’s Representative to the Pacific, Sheldon Yett.

The Government of Samoa officially declared a state of emergency on 15 November 2019. UNICEF has delivered more than 260,000 doses of measles vaccines to Samoa since 1 October, including the required diluent, syringes and safety boxes, as well as sufficient supplies of Vitamin A.

The national Measles Vaccination Campaign began on 20 November 2019 with mobile outreach vaccination sites and teams, and special vaccine booths.

UNICEF has delivered six 42 sqm tents, which will be used as vaccination sites or isolation wards for patients with measles. Six specially designed refrigerators and three emergency trolleys will also be provided to the Ministry of Health, to ensure the cold chain is maintained and vaccines are effective when given at vaccination sites.

“The message that must get through to all parents is that the evidence is clear and irrefutable – vaccines save lives and failure to vaccinate children kills children as we have seen in Samoa,” said James Nichols, Director of Communications, UNICEF Australia.

Worldwide more than 140,000 people died from measles in 2018, according to new estimates released today from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC). These deaths occurred as measles cases surged globally, amidst devastating outbreaks in all regions.

Infants and young children are most at risk of fatal complications. Babies and very young children are at greatest risk from measles infections, with potential complications including pneumonia and encephalitis (a swelling of the brain), as well as lifelong disability - permanent brain damage, blindness or hearing loss.

Note to editors
Images of the Samoa measles response available here
Australians can call 1300 884 233 to give support to UNICEF’s response to the measles outbreak in the Pacific including Samoa, or they can go online to contribute to UNICEF’s work for children globally