MEASLES EPIDEMIC; STATE ADDRESS BY SAMOA’s PRIME MINISTER TUILAEPA LUPESOLIAI SAILELE MALIELEGAOI;
In this time of crisis, and the cruel reality of the measles epidemic, let us reflect on how we can avoid recurrence in the future. I extend to all the families that have lost loved ones and the children of Samoa, our condolences and sympathies. Our prayers are also extended to those affected for speedy recoveries. In times of Natural disasters we are able to attract many responders to provide relief and recovery. With health disasters, only members of the health profession can provide the appropriate response.
A situation update is that: from the 20th November to 2nd December, 58,000 people have been vaccinated; 53 have died and of that, 48 are children under 4 years old.
At this juncture I wish to acknowledge with gratitude all the support that has come from the international community and national stakeholders particularly through human resources, vaccines, medical supplies and equipment, technical expertise and financial contributions to assist our tired but willing local health workers.
Since the declaration of the state of emergency, we have received medical teams from Australia, New Zealand and NZ Red Cross, France, United Kingdom. Pacific Medical Association, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, China, Norway, Japan, United Nations and the United States. More are on their way. We are also receiving logistical support from American Samoa and our community of Non Governmental Organisations such as ADRA, Red Cross, Caritas, Church Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, communities, individuals and private sector.
The Government continues to emphasize through all forms of the media the importance of prevention and protection of our children. It is critical that we stand together on ways to address the crisis. The Government needs the support of all village councils, faith based organisations and church leaders, Village mayors and Government women representatives and all organisations engaged in outreach programs.
Let us work together to encourage and convince those that do not believe that vaccinations are the only answer to the epidemic. Let us not be distracted by the promise of alternative cures. Measles is not a new disease to Samoa and rarely claimed lives. We need to understand the following issues:
1. Vaccinations is the only cure
2. If affected cases are presented early for treatment, full recovery should be expected
3. No traditional healers or kangen water preparations can cure measles
It is a fact that those who have died have never had vaccinations. Because measles has complications such as pneumonia, it is critical for parents to present sick children early to doctors for care.
Measles is highly contagious and may spread over borders through travel such as was the Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918. No one should travel if they feel unwell
Government’s response has been to vaccinate all children attending school at all levels, priority vaccinations for those between 6 month- 4 years who have not had prior vaccinations and women in the childbearing age group of 20-39 years, early closure of schools and tertiary institutions, and banning children from attending public gatherings or places where large numbers of people congregate.
In this regard, I wish to announce that the public service and all government services will be closed from Thursday 5th-6th December in order to allow all public servants to assist with the mass vaccination campaign throughout the country except for the utilities (Water and Electricity).
A program will be published for the information of the public.
The answer to our prayers is with us through the services of the doctors and nurses and all health personnel. I would again call on everyone’s cooperation to protect our children; seek medical care for sick children early, ensure family members especially children are vaccinated and maintain good hygiene standards in all environments.
May God’s healing be upon us all.