Grandparents Samuelu and Tafoe Moors Samuelu-Isaako are facing the heartbreak of losing two of their grandsons in a matter of days, both suspected to be the latest deaths in Samoa’s measles epidemic.
Samuelu and Tafoe’s 23 year old daughter Selema Samuelu lost the younger of her two children. Selema’s 1-year-old son died at the Motootua National Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit last Saturday.
Two days later at the ICU in Motootua, Samuelu and Tafoe’s 25 year old son Junior Samuelu and his wife Ula lost their 6 month old baby Isaako Junior.
The boys’ uncle Laryz Samuelu told Samoa Global News that their family are still trying to come to terms with the loss and are taking extra precautions to safeguard his other nephews and nieces from the measles epidemic that Samoa is now battling to contain.
“My sister has lost her younger son and my brother has lost his only boy”.
“My sister Selema has two sons, her older boy Adam is ok. My brother also has two children, the older child is a girl, and she is ok too.”
The boys’ uncle says that their family will be arranging a double burial for baby Lologa and his younger cousin Isaako this Friday.
This is the second family in Samoa to have lost more than one child since the oitbreak. Last Saturday a family at Laulii held a double burial for a two-year-old boy and his one-year-old sister.
The Samoa Ministry of Health declared a measles outbreak on the 16th of October 2019, more than two months after New Zealand had declared on the 1st of August 2019.
Auckland University’s Helen Petousis-Harris said, “Samoa has an immunisation rate as low as 31%, which might have dropped further because of a lengthy pause in the vaccination programme last year”.
Samoa suspended Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) immunisations in July 2018 following the tragic deaths of two babies who died immediately after receiving MMR vaccinations at Safotu Hospital in Savaii.
The Ministry of Health resumed MMR vaccinations in April 2019, Dr Leausa Take Naseri confirming that the vaccine was found to be 100% safe, and that the tragic incident in Safotu was a case of human error.
The latest report from Samoa’s Ministry of Health issued as Measles Epidemic Update 5 says 323 out of the 513 suspected cases of measles are children under 5 years of age.
The report does not include the latest deaths reported by the media, and only refers to “three measles-related mortality; a 14-month old an 8-month old; and a 37-year old, all highly suspected measles and all awaiting laboratory confirmation”.
Resources at the Motootua Hospital as well as District hospitals have been stretched with the report confirming that 195 of the 513 suspected cases had been admitted to hospital.
Again, 76% or 149 of all admissions are below 5 years old.
A medical practitioner speaking to Samoa Global News on condition of not being named says extreme measures are needed to draw the attention of the authorities to the gravity of the situation.
“My real concern came from talking to my medical colleagues and hospital staff who are dealing with the situation. Going without proper sleep now for days if not weeks does not do any good to anybody. They are crying out for help.”
He explains that the help immediately needed is to do with the end of the chain before imminent death because there is late presenting.
“We must loudly advise parents to bring sick children in quickly”.
“Then we need the expertise and specialized equipment and materials needed in the care of the critically sick young children”.
“Most of these very young patients need life support and the means to effectively deliver oxygen to the brain while giving the infected lungs time to recover for survival”.
“Expensive stuff but hey we do spend lots of funds on so many other things like dialysis”.
“We missed the window of opportunity to the vaccine campaign by some 4 weeks because we did not react promptly to what was happening in New Zealand,”
“Instead we tried to avoid it getting here but that’s futile with planes arriving from NZ twice a day, it will get here. No matter what we do. So the vaccination campaign is delayed”.
Deputy Director General of Health and Manager of Clinical Services Tevaga Dr Ponifasio posted that an Australian Medical Team had arrived last week to assist our MOH staff with the measles epidemic.
The measles vaccination is available at all Health Facilities including:
The Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital (TTMH) on Upolu. The Immunisation clinic is located at the TTMH Emergency Department.
The Malietoa Tanumafili II Hospital (MTIIH) on Savaii. The Immunisation clinic is located at the MTIIH emergency department.
A new Immunisation clinic is open at Matagialalua at the waterfront, Eleele Fou, Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm.
Please be advised that it can take up to two weeks for the vaccination to become fully effective so it is important that the usual prevention measures are taken for up to two weeks after you have been vaccinated.
It is important not to panic but to seek medical advice if you or any member of your family’s condition worsens.
For further information on measles, please contact your nearest health facility or, call Dr Robert Thomsen on telephone 66503/7676015 or, Tevaga Dr Ponifasio Ponifasio on telephone 66500 or, Dr Sarah Brown on telephone 66723 or, a healthcare provider.