Government services shut down in Samoa to help battle against measles

The Pacific island nation of Samoa will shut down government services against measles, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi announced on Monday.

Only electricity and water utility workers would be exempt.  A measles outbreak has claimed more than 50 lives, most of them children under 4 years old, in this country. Officials declared a state of emergency two weeks ago, closing all schools and prohibiting all public gatherings.The government wants people to get vaccinated. "Let us work together to  convince those that do not believe that vaccinations are the only answer to the epidemic. Let us not be distracted by the promise of alternative cures," Tuilaepa said.

Samoa beach

More than 3,700 measles cases have been reported since the outbreak began in October. About 1,100 people have been admitted to hospitals. The World Health Organization and UNICEF indicated that fewer than 30% of Samoan infants were immunized last year. Immunizations in Samoa plummeted after a high-profile scandal in which improperly prepared vaccine caused the deaths of two infants. Two nurses were charged but the public remained distrustful of the vaccination. Medical teams from Australia, New Zealand, France, China, Norway, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and the United Nations have responded to the crisis in Samoa.