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.
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.
“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.
So much for the idea of forced vaccination, right?
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.
So what’s next?
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.
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
- The Tragedy in Samoa Was Not Caused by the MMR Vaccine
- Who is Taylor Winterstein?
- The Moral Responsibility of the Anti-Vaccine Movement
- This Is the Modern Anti-Vaccine Movement
- The Myth That Measles Isn’t Deadly
- Did the Measles Vaccine Have Only a Meager Effect on Measles Deaths?
- Did Better Hygiene and Sanitation Get Rid of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases?
- What Are the Greatest Tricks Anti-Vaccine Folks Use to Persuade Parents to Skip Vaccines?
- More Questions to Help You Become a Vaccine Skeptic
- Pacific: Measles Outbreak – Oct 2019
- Samoa’s devastating measles epidemic – why and how bad?
- Antivaxxer Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. writes to Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi about measles in the middle of an outbreak
- Antivaccine activists and the deadly measles outbreak in Samoa
- National Measles Response and Recovery Appeal, 6 December 2019
- Samoa Red Cross Society Emergency Plan of Action December 2
- National Emergency Operation Centre: Update on the measles outbreak (Press Release 21) December 7, 2019
- Measles Outbreak in the Pacific – Situation Report No 1, 22 November, 2019
- Measles Outbreak in the Pacific – Situation Report No 5, December 6, 2019
- Ministry of Health Press Release 1 – Measles Epidemic
- Infant dies in Samoa amid measles scare
- NZ medical staff and measles vaccines going to Samoa
- Measles Update: Samoa warns against anti-vaxxers; issues new emergency orders
- UNICEF on Samoa measles outbreak: ‘The situation is huge’
- Save the Children deploys team of health workers to support Samoa measles response
- ROK Government Decides to Extend 100,000 USD in Humanitarian Assistance in Response to Measles Outbreak in Samoa
- Samoa measles outbreak: families fly red flags to request vaccinations
- Leading anti-vaccine activist arrested
- Samoa measles vaccinations compared to ‘Nazi Germany’ by social media influencer
- Samoa measles epidemic: Authorities forced to destroy 60 vaccines as death toll hits 32
- Measles in Samoa: Many still visiting traditional healers
- Is faith in traditional healing harming Pacific health?
- Taulasea And Cultural Continuity In Samoa
- Australian doctor talks about measles struggle
- ‘There are no words’: Samoa buries its children as measles outbreak worsens