Tag: measles deaths

The Timeline of the Measles Epidemic in Samoa

The timeline of the measles epidemic in Samoa seems fairly easy to understand.

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.

In an outbreak situation, everyone who is not immune would need to get two doses of a measles containing vaccine and that's why you need 215,000 doses of measles vaccine... And despite what Sherri Tenpenny might think, everyone on Samoa is still not vaccinated yet.
In an outbreak situation, everyone who is not immune would need to get two doses of a measles containing vaccine and that’s why you need 215,000 doses of measles vaccine… And despite what Sherri Tenpenny might think, everyone on Samoa is still not vaccinated yet.

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.

Taylor Winterstein was planning an anti-vax workshop in Samoa in June.
Taylor Winterstein was planning an anti-vax workshop in Samoa in June.

And while the suspension was eventually reversed, they continued to hold MMR vaccinations for another nine months, until April 15, 2019.

Bobby Kennedy actually wrote a letter to the Prime Minister of Samoa on November 19th making every effort to blame the epidemic on a defective MMR vaccine, mutant measles strains, or vaccine strain measles.
Bobby Kennedy actually wrote a letter to the Prime Minister of Samoa on November 19th making every effort to blame the epidemic on a defective MMR vaccine, mutant measles strains, or vaccine strain measles.

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.

Measles cases in Samoa began in September, which is why UNICEF began sending vaccines in October.
Wait. If the outbreak is caused by the vaccine strain (A genotype), why are folks testing positive for the D8 strain?

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.

Photo courtesy of the Government of Samoa.
Photo courtesy of the Government of Samoa.

Amazingly, with all of the cases and deaths, some folks resisted and didn’t want to be vaccinated and protected.

Still wondering why some parents are scared and don't want their kids vaccinated?
Still wondering why some parents are scared and don’t want their kids vaccinated?

They turned the vaccination teams away!

So much for the idea of forced vaccination, right?

There have been 70 deaths in the measles epidemic in Samoa.
The latest update from Samoa – December 9th.

Most have gotten vaccinated and protected though.

They understand that while traditional healers might still be popular in Samoa, they can not be used for life-threatening diseases such as measles.

In addition to overloading kids with vitamin C, a traditional healer working with Jim Meehan was arrested for making many claims that scared people away from getting vaccinated and protected.
In addition to overloading kids with vitamin C, a traditional healer working with Jim Meehan was arrested on December 6 for making many claims that scared people away from getting vaccinated and protected.

So what’s next?

On Nov 24, the case count jumped from 1,797 to 2,194, although they only reported 144 new cases. Were they catching up from the previous days?

While it isn’t over yet, hopefully we are in the ending stages of their epidemic, as many people have now been vaccinated and protected with at least one dose of a measles containing vaccine.

Hopefully everyone has learned a big lesson and this epidemic will serve as a warning to everyone to vaccinate and protect their kids.

Samoan children should have been vaccinated and protected.
Samoan children should have been vaccinated and protected.

And to not listen to anti-vax folks, especially those who would try and exploit this kind of epidemic to push their propaganda.

More on the Measles Epidemic in Samoa

Jim Meehan Supporting a Farmer Helps Explain the Deaths in Samoa

In case you need to be caught up, there is a measles epidemic in Samoa and over 50 kids have already died.

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.

Taylor Winterstein compared the plan to vaccinate everyone against measles to stop the outbreak to Nazi Germany!

Samoa even got a visit from Bobby Kennedy last June!

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.

Edwin Tamasese is an holistic healer in Samoa.
I wonder what Jim Meehan thinks caused those birth defects in Brazil…

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…

The last thing folks in Samoa need is advice from Jim Meehan!
The last thing folks in Samoa need is advice from Jim Meehan!

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.

Big difference!

Antibiotics don't treat viral infections, but they do treat secondary bacterial diseases and superinfections that often complicate measles infections.

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.

It is typically only recommended that parents treat fever if their child is very uncomfortable.
It is typically only recommended that parents treat fever if their child is very uncomfortable.

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.

Measles is not mutating.
Mutating measles? Where have we heard that before?

Why do we genotype measles strains?

So that we know where outbreaks originated from.

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!

The kids are dying because they aren't vaccinated and protected!
Not the measles virus??? The kids are dying because they aren’t vaccinated and protected!

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.

How much vitamin C are the kids on Tamasese's protocol getting?
How much vitamin C are these kids getting? 3000mg? 5000mg? Since too much vitamin C causes diarrhea and nausea, how much will they take “until stomach runs?” Diarrhea and dehydration are already complications of measles…

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!

The WHO has a protocol for giving kids high doses of vitamin A when they have measles.
The WHO has a protocol for giving kids high doses of vitamin A when they have measles.

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?

As we see more measles, we will see more people die with measles.

Measles is deadly.

This type of anti-vax propaganda is the reason that parents might think that vaccines are toxic...
This type of anti-vax propaganda is the reason that parents might think that vaccines are toxic…

Get vaccinated and protected with two doses of MMR and prevent these outbreaks.

More on Jim Meehan and Samoa

The Measles Epidemic in Samoa

The measles epidemic in Samoa isn’t the worst we have seen lately.

There are now 53 deaths in the Samoa measles epidemic.

Although everyone is now talking about Samoa, let’s remember that there has been a rise in measles cases all over the world and that there have been:

And most of those deaths have been in children.

The Measles Epidemic in Samoa

Measles is on the rise.

Not surprisingly, deaths from measles are also on the rise.

UNICEF delivered vaccines and sufficient supplies of vitamin A to Samoa back in October.
UNICEF delivered vaccines and sufficient supplies of vitamin A to Samoa back in October.

What’s different about Samoa is that they continue to be targeted by anti-vax folks, even as it is easy to see that anti-vaccine messaging helped contribute to this measles epidemic.

Anti-vaccine fears helped fuel the Samoa measles epidemic.

Sure, the recent mistake involving the nurses who incorrectly mixed up the MMR vaccine with an anesthetic instead of the proper diluent didn’t help, but anti-vax folks exploited that tragedy to scare parents even more.

Bobby Kennedy visited Samoa in June...
Bobby Kennedy visited Samoa in June…

So we now have a measles epidemic and low vaccination rates in a poor, developing country, with limited health care services.

Anti-vaxxers often ask if anyone died when there is an outbreak...
Anti-vaxxers often ask if anyone died when there is an outbreak…

And a lot of measles deaths as they struggle to get the epidemic under control by closing schools and banning public gatherings, and starting a compulsory, mass vaccination campaign.

Taylor Winterstein's anti-vaccine talking points sound all too familiar.
Taylor Winterstein‘s anti-vaccine talking points sound all too familiar.

A vaccination campaign that anti-vax folks are saying is somehow turning Samoa into Nazi Germany…

Scaring parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids in the middle of a deadly epidemic is not only dangerous, it's immoral.
Scaring parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids in the middle of a deadly epidemic is not only dangerous, it’s immoral.

As anti-vax folks double down, even as kids die in these epidemics, know that you can help stop them by no longer spreading their propaganda and instead choosing to support vaccine advocacy groups.

Send an international wire transfer from your bank to the BSP GOS Direct Transfer Fund Account to help their Measles Emergency Operations.
Send an international wire transfer from your bank to the BSP GOS Direct Transfer Fund Account to help their Measles Emergency Operations.

And consider donating to Samoa’s Measles Emergency Options and the organizations that are helping control this epidemic, including UNICEF and the New Zealand Red Cross.

Mostly remember that in addition to working to control these epidemics, we can prevent them if more people get vaccinated and protected. After all, measles is a vaccine-preventable disease.

More on the Measles Epidemic in Samoa

Why Did Germany Make the MMR Vaccine Mandatory?

Have you seen the news about the new law that called for mandatory measles vaccination in Germany?

A new law that calls for mandatory measles vaccination in Germany.
Maybe we just need laws against this kind of misinformation about vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases…

It’s true, although it certainly won’t cause “death and injury rates” to sky rocket.

Why Did Germany Make the MMR Vaccine Mandatory?

So why did it happen?

“Often, there is a lack of information or targeted disinformation that prevents people from getting themselves or their children vaccinated and exposure to avoidable health hazards.”

Opinion of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Paul Ehrlich Institute, Federal Institute for Vaccines and Biomedical Drugs, On the Quality and Safety of Vaccines

Germany has been one of the countries most affected by measles outbreaks in Europe over the past few years, with over 5,000 cases since 2015.

And at least three measles deaths, including an unvaccinated toddler. Plus additional deaths from SSPE.

This toddler in Germany who died in 2015 was not vaccinated for measles.
This toddler in Germany who died in 2015 was not vaccinated for measles.

And almost all of the cases are among those who are unvaccinated.

This led to the reestablishment of endemic measles virus transmission in Germany in 2017, even as we are supposed to be working towards eliminating measles.

So what does mandatory measles vaccination in Germany mean?

“The bill stipulates that all children from the age of one on entering the school or kindergarten must have the measles vaccine recommended by the Standing Vaccination Commission. In the case of care by a childminder, proof of measles vaccination usually has to be provided.

The same applies to persons who work in community facilities or medical facilities such as educators, teachers, day care workers and medical staff (if these were born after 1970). Asylum seekers and refugees must also have the vaccine protection four weeks after admission to a shared accommodation.”

Vaccination is designed to protect children from measles

Passage of the Measles Protection Act (Masernschutzgesetz), which goes into effect on March 1, 2020, also means that parents can be fined up to €2,500 if they don’t vaccinate their children, daycare centers can be fined for admitting unvaccinated children, and certain unvaccinated workers, including healthcare workers, can be fined.

“Since measles vaccination is highly effective and very well tolerated, the German Ethics Council is of the opinion that every person is morally obliged to have him- or herself vaccinated against measles and, if applicable, to provide appropriate immunisation for his or her own children.”

Ethics Council: Increasing measles vaccination rate by a package of measures rather than by mandatory vaccination

While some oppose the law, including the German Ethics Council, it is important to note that few people see mandatory vaccination as the first step in getting folks vaccinated and protected. It is typically one of the last measures taken after everything else has failed and outbreaks are once again getting out of control, with people dying needlessly of an easily preventable disease.

Don’t want vaccine mandates to come to your community?

Then stop scaring people away from getting vaccinated and protected with misinformation and propaganda!

Vaccines are safe, with few risks, and are obviously necessary.

More on Mandatory Measles Vaccination in Germany