In the Solomon Islands the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) is on alert in the wake of the measles outbreak in a number of Pacific Island countries, including Samoa, Fiji and Tonga.
“Children are most at risk during a measles outbreak,” the Permanent Secretary for Health, Pauline McNeil said.
Local health officials are conducting a mass immunization campaign of children under six years, increasing surveillance for the disease at ports and airports, and providing information for travellers entering and leaving the country.
Considering how close Samoa, Fiji and Tonga are to the Solomon Islands and that the holiday season is approaching the MHMS has been quick to act by taking all necessary precautions and one must be confident that measles will not spread to the country.
Meanwhile, the US Centres’ for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) are calling for a renewed effort to eliminate measles.
The call comes as an epidemic in Samoa has killed 62 people; all but eight of the deaths are children under the age of four.
Measles is known to have killed 140,000 people last year – mostly children – and globally cases in 2018 were up 167 per cent compared with 2016, according to new figures released by the CDC and the WHO.
Over the 2000-2018 period, the CDC and the WHO estimated the global coverage of the first dose of the measles vaccine increased from 72 percent to 86 percent. But more needs to be done to get populations around the world to at least 95 percent immunisation coverage, a press release said.
“We really have the magic bullet here,” said Robert Linkins, a CDC expert on global immunisation. “The struggle really is to ensure that people get the vaccine.”
Vaccination rates globally have stagnated for almost a decade. In 2018, 86 percent of children globally received the first dose of measles vaccine; fewer than 70 percent got the second dose, according to estimates from the WHO and the UN’s children’s agency UNICEF.
In Samoa, where more than 4200 people have been sickened with measles, just 13 percent of the population had both doses of the measles’ vaccine last year, according to WHO estimates.
Over the last 18 years, the WHO and the CDC estimate measles vaccinations are estimated to have saved more than 23 million lives…
Let us all spare a thought for our neighbour Samoa has it struggles to combat the measles epidemic, and especially let us think of the families in Samoa that have lost their tiny children to the disease.
Sources: Radio New Zealand and Solomon Star News.