No one should be surprised either that they have invented 101 different theories about why kids are dying in Samoa.
It can’t simply be that they are unvaccinated and that measles is a life-threatening disease! That would interfere with their whole world view that it is okay to leave their own kids unvaccinated and unprotected because they think that vaccines are dangerous, aren’t necessary, and vaccine-preventable diseases aren’t that big of a deal.
Is the Samoan Measles Outbreak Fabricated?
And that gets us to the idea that the measles outbreak in Samoa is fake or unnatural.
Was the measles outbreak in Samoa started by shedding from vaccines sent by UNICEF in early October?
Wait, why did UNICEF start sending measles vaccines to Samoa in October?
Yeah, that’s right. The first cases were actually in September, triggered by visitor from New Zealand in August.
Anyway, the strain in Samoa is D8, not A as you would expect if it was a vaccine strain.
And the idea that the outbreak was fabricated by Merck to sell more vaccine?
“This would be news if outbreaks of similar intensity occurred in first world countries, such as the United States or the European Union. But they don’t. Nor do they occur in a similar scale or severity. This means that hygiene, nutrition, refrigeration, and potable water—items many in the modern world take for granted—are the real delta between measles deaths in the Third World versus mild measles cases in the first, which come and go, and rarely result in fatalities.”
Vaccination rates went down, the people in Samoa got caught up in the rise in measles cases and outbreaks happening all over the world, and they soon had a measles epidemic on their hands, with lots of kids dying.
Unfortunately, anti-vaccine folks continue to exploit the tragedy, trying to make it sound like vaccines actually caused the epidemic.
“The Samoa Measles Appeal is being launched by the Government of Samoa to receive financial assistance from partners to support national efforts to contain the outbreak, to effectively treat people who contracted measles, and to achieve herd immunity for long term protection of the population.”
National Measles Response and Recovery Appeal
They are even making up conspiracy theories about the money the Government of Samoa is requesting to help control the epidemic and prevent future outbreaks.
The Timeline of the Measles Epidemic in Samoa
Maybe what is happening in Samoa isn’t so easy to understand…
Let’s give it a try!
To truly understand what is happening in Samoa, you have to go back a little further than when the epidemic started.
In fact, we have to go all of the way back to July 2018, when two young children died very shortly after getting their routine MMR vaccines. Although they died because of a mixup between the vaccine diluent and a powerful anesthetic, the tragic deaths led to the suspension of all vaccinations in the country.
And while the suspension was eventually reversed, they continued to hold MMR vaccinations for another nine months, until April 15, 2019.
Combine that with the efforts of anti-vax folks and it is easy to see how immunization rates in Samoa eventually tumbled to a low of just 30%!
What happened next?
On October 9, we got the first report of a measles case in Samoa and that it was related to a someone who visited from New Zealand for a conference at the end of August.
But by the time of that first report, at least 86 people had already been tested for suspected measles!
“Of the 28 specimens of suspected measles cases sent to Victorian Infectious Disease Reference Laboratory Melbourne, Australia on the 30th Sept 2019, twelve (12) results have been received over the week end. Of these twelve there were four confirmed cases; one adult and three children. All have been treated and discharged with no complications.
On the 2nd of October 2019, we sent another 8 specimens of suspected measles cases. Current results received this afternoon of these eight specimens sent revealed three new confirmed cases. Of these three positive cases, two were children under five years and 1 was an adult of 22 years old. All have been treated and discharged.
A total of seven confirmed cases have been reported to date. In anticipation, we now confirm a Measles Epidemic.”
Ministry of Health Press Release 1 – Measles Epidemic (October 16)
With that many cases already, it should be obvious that the measles outbreak in Samoa started in late September. That explains why UNICEF had begun to send measles vaccines and vitamin A to Samoa in early October.
And that should put to rest the myth that this is some kind of unnatural, vaccine induced outbreak that got started because of the UNICEF vaccines.
“The deceased child of one year two months was admitted on the 8th October 2019 with a history of febrile convulsions, cough and skin rash typical of measles associated with severe dehydration. Verification of immunization status for this child revealed that he has not been vaccinated against measles.”
Ministry of Health Press Release 1 – Measles Epidemic
Tragically, we very soon saw the first measles death (October 15) in Samoa, an unvaccinated toddler. With continued cases, they soon declared a measles epidemic on October 16.
With continued cases and deaths, the Government of Samoa closed all preschools and daycare centers on October 31.
On November 8, they lowered the age to get the first dose MMR in Samoa to 6 months.
It wasn’t long before the Government of Samoa declared a full fledged state of emergency (November 15), closing schools, restricting children from gathering in public, and making vaccination mandatory.
“The outbreaks in Samoa and Tonga are caused by the D8 strain (genotype) of measles virus. Measles vaccine coverage varies in Pacific island countries and areas, ranging from 31% in Samoa to 99% in the Cook Islands, Nauru and Niue.”
Measles Outbreak in the Pacific – Situation Report No 1, 22 November, 2019
It was at this time that more help came from New Zealand, 12 nurses to help administer vaccines. Australia also soon sent a team of 34 doctors and nurses to help at Samoa’s main hospital in the capital Apia.
“Samoa’s government is warning anyone trying to discourage people from getting measles vaccinations to stop it.”
Measles Update: Samoa warns against anti-vaxxers; issues new emergency orders
And now, although there have been some roadblocks put up by anti-vaxxers both in and out of Samoa, with lots of help, they are hopefully getting their epidemic under control.
“As of December 6th, 2019, approximately 89% of all eligible people in Samoa have been vaccinated against measles.”
National Emergency Operation Centre: Update on the measles outbreak (Press Release 21) December 7, 2019
In fact, many people were vaccinated when the Government of Samoa shut down on December 5th and 6th.
“On 03/12, the Government announced that a nationwide mass vaccination will take place on Thursday and Friday (05 + 06/12) and all public services (excluding power and water, police, and health services) as well as the private sector (with few exceptions) will be shut down from 7 am – 5 pm to enforce the mass vaccination programme. Citizens were asked to stay at their residences and await the visit of mobile vaccination teams. There are 128 teams carrying out the mass vaccination campaign during this period.”
National Measles Response and Recovery Appeal, 6 December 2019
During the door to door mass vaccination campaign, families were told to stay home and hang red flags outside their homes if they needed to be vaccinated.
Amazingly, with all of the cases and deaths, some folks resisted and didn’t want to be vaccinated and protected.
Larry Palevsky seems to think that the big outbreaks in New York could have just been folks with vaccine-strain measles…
“All measles cases this year have been caused by measles wild-type D8 or B3.”
CDC on Measles Cases in 2019
Of course, none of this is true.
There were no vaccine strain measles cases in the Disneyland outbreak!
What the California Department of Public Health reported were recently vaccinated persons who developed a febrile rash, which is a common side effect of the MMR vaccine. They were tested because they were in the middle of a measles outbreak and they wanted to make sure that these folks didn’t have measles. And they didn’t.
“Here, we describe a real-time
reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) method that detects the vaccine
genotype (MeVA RT-quantitative PCR [RT-qPCR]) and that can provide rapid
discrimination between wild-type-virus infections and vaccine
Roy et al on Rapid Identification of Measles Virus Vaccine Genotype by Real-Time PCR
While that easily dwarfs the number of deaths in many other countries, where there have been thousands of deaths, Samoa has been getting some extra attention because some of the blame rests with anti-vax influence on the island nation.
Jim Meehan Supporting a Farmer Helps Explain the Deaths in Samoa
It is even more amazing that many of these folks have been doubling down on their anti-vax activism even as measles deaths have continued to climb.
It seems that Edwin Tamasese, a farmer in Samoa who is also described as a holistic healer, is being advised on how to treat kids with measles by James Meehan, an ophthalmologist in Oklahoma who now practices integrative and functional medicine.
How do either have the training or background to help sick kids in a measles epidemic?
That they don’t is easy to see from Meehan’s letter of support…
Wait, why would anyone vaccinate a child who was already infected with measles?
Probably because it is a part of routine measles postexposure prophylaxis guidelines. In fact, giving a dose of MMR within a few days of exposure to someone with measles can reduce their risk of getting sick with measles or of developing complications of measles.
Of course, you wouldn’t actually give the MMR vaccine to someone who was already sick with measles though. Instead of simply being infected with measles, that would be someone with measles disease.
There are no indications for antibiotics to treat uncomplicated viral diseases, unfortunately, secondary bacterial diseases can occur and do need to be treated.
“These results document that MV infection can suppress both innate and adaptive immune responses and lead to increased susceptibility to bacterial infection.”
Slifka et al on Measles virus infection results in suppression of both innate and adaptive immune responses to secondary bacterial infection
In fact, it is these secondary bacterial super-infections, including pneumonia and mastoiditis, that can make measles so deadly.
“Mortality from measles is predominantly caused by complicating bacterial infections.”
Factsheet about measles
It is a big reason that kids with measles, a viral infection, likely need to be treated with antibiotics.
Kids with measles typically have a high fever and are very irritable.
While we have been moving towards an approach of letting fevers run their course these days, in case fever does have some beneficial effects, there are also studies that have shown that in critically ill patients, fever is associated with increased mortality.
Unlike some other infections, the genotype doesn’t help you figure out whether or not the vaccine will work against it. Measles is a monotypic virus. The MMR vaccine protects against all measles strains.
“The outbreaks in Samoa and Tonga are caused by the D8 strain (genotype) of measles virus.”
Measles Outbreak in the Pacific – Situation Report No 2, 26 November 2019
An no, for the millionth time, 38% of the measles cases in the Disneyland outbreak were not caused by the vaccine strain!
Those folks with the vaccine strain were the ones who were recently vaccinated and had a “febrile rash illness,” a common side effect of the vaccine.
They did not have measles!
While vaccinating someone who is truly immunosuppressed with a live vaccine is contraindicated, it seems like Meehan thinks that most of the folks on Samoa are immunosuppressed and shouldn’t be vaccinated!
There is a state of emergency in Samoa that has closed schools, banned public gatherings, and mandated vaccines, as they attempt to get their measles epidemic under control. They are also getting help from UNICEF, the New Zealand Red Cross, UK’s Emergency Medical Team (UK EMT), the Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT), and the New Zealand Medical Assistance Team (NZMAT).
More help is coming from the CDC and the EUCPM.
They do not need folks like Tamasese and Meehan interfering with these efforts because they think they can do it better, even as they scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids – the one thing that will end the epidemic.
It should be noted that as much as anti-vax folks are crowing about Tamasese and Meehan’s efforts to get kids vitamin A, their protocol severely under doses kids!
Anyway, mega doses of vitamin A are most helpful in reducing mortality in hospitalized kids with measles. It is also important to keep in mind that vitamin A only reduces mortality – it doesn’t eliminate it. Vitamin A is not a cure for measles.
And the mega doses of vitamin C they are giving aren’t going to help prevent complications. They are just giving the kids diarrhea, which is not a good thing if they might already be malnourished!
What’s the biggest takeaway from the Samoa epidemic?