A recent article from The Guardian discussed the ongoing measles epidemic in Samoa, which has infected more than 3,000 people to date. The outbreak began 6 weeks ago, and has mostly affected children. Of the 42 deaths so far, 38 of them have been children under four. This number is high in comparison to more developed countries. For instance, New Zealand’s recent epidemic was the worst in 20 years, but none of the 2,000 people infected died. The severity of the outbreak can be traced to low vaccination rates and a health service that’s not properly equipped to handle an epidemic.
The World Health Organization estimates Samoa’s total population immunity to be as low as 30-40%, which is extremely low compared to its Pacific neighbors with rates over 90%. A loss of trust in the government has led the infant vaccination rates to drop from 85% to 31% in just four years. On November 25th, the Samoan government declared a national state of emergency. Since then, vaccinations have become mandatory, and stations have been set up in churches, primary schools, outside grocery stores, as well as dozens of mobile clinics that roam the country.