The measles epidemic in Samoa has claimed the lives of 20 people, with hundreds of new cases emerging every day, official data released Friday November 22nd showed.
The UN’s children’s agency, UNICEF, said it was in the process of delivering more than 110,000 doses of measles vaccine to Samoa's population of about 200,000, according to medicalexpress.com.
At least 1,644 cases, with 202 diagnosed since Thursday November 22nd, has most affected young children, AFP has reported, citing a government source as saying.
It said the number of deaths had hit 20, including 19 children aged under four years old, while an additional 11 children are critically ill in hospital.
Samoa launched a compulsory vaccination programme, closed schools and banned children from public gatherings, declaring a state of emergency as it tries to contain the outbreak.
UNICEF is distributing more than 110,000 doses of measles vaccine to Samoa's population of about 200,000, with Australia and New Zealand sending medical specialists and supplies to Samoa.
Tonga and Fiji have also experienced outbreaks of the epidemic, although much less severe, and without any deaths so far, due to higher vaccination rates among the population.
Samoa's vaccination rate is estimated at 28-40%, while in Tonga and Fiji they are 99% and 81 % respectively, according to UNICEF.