Anna Ball at VOA:
The government of Samoa announced on Monday that five more children had died within the past day from measles.
That raises the number of measles deaths on the Pacific island nation to 53 since late October. Forty-eight of the victims were children.
The government has closed schools and is restricting travel before the Christmas holiday season.
The French news agency AFP reports that the government said almost 200 new measles cases had been recorded since Sunday. There was no sign of the rate of infection slowing on Samoa, even with a mass vaccination program in effect.
This is the latest outbreak of a worldwide epidemic of measles. The highly infectious virus found an at-risk population in Samoa. The World Health Organization, WHO, says only about 31% of the population was vaccinated when the outbreak started.
Now there are more than 3,700 cases of measles recorded among the 200,000 people on the islands.
...Beth Mole at Ars Technica:
Local media reports that Samoan officials blamed low coverage rates in Samoa in part on fears caused last year when two babies died after receiving vaccinations. The country’s immunization program was temporarily suspended. The deaths were later found to have been caused by medications that were wrongly mixed.
Still, news of the heartbreaking deaths shook the island nation’s confidence in the healthcare system. And anti-vaccination groups pounced on the circumstances. Most notably, the deaths were picked up by the Children’s Health Defense, run by the prominent anti-vaccine advocate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. As The Washington Post noted, Kennedy’s organization spent months highlighting the deaths on Facebook while questioning the safety of the MMR vaccines. But the organization did not correct the posts or update its audience with information regarding the nurses’ error and convictions.
Kennedy visited Samoa in June, appearing alongside local anti-vaccine advocates and even a staff member of the US embassy. In November, Kennedy’s organization sent a letter to the Samoan prime minister, encouraging officials to question the MMR vaccine. Kennedy peddles the false and dangerous claim that vaccines are linked to autism, despite the fact that numerous scientific studies have robustly debunked the baseless claim.
On Sunday, Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi encouraged residents to fight back against misinformation. “Let us work together to encourage and convince those that do not believe that vaccinations are the only answer to the epidemic,” he said.
At the same time, he announced that all government services will be closed from Thursday, December 5, to December 6 so that public servants could carry on with the mass vaccination campaign.