Samoan Families are Now Hanging Red Flags If They’re Unvaccinated After Measles Outbreak Kills 62

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Samoa initiated a two-day shutdown on Thursday to contain a measles epidemic that has killed a total of 62 people.

Both public and private workers must stay home, while roads are restricted to essential vehicles that deliver vaccines across the Pacific island nation.

 

More than 4,200 cases of the viral infection have been recorded since the outbreak started in mid-October.

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APIA, SAMOA – DECEMBER 5: Red flags are seen hanging outside of homes of Apia residents indicating they have not been vaccinated for measles on December 5, 2019 in Apia, Samoa. A measles outbreak in Samoa has killed 62 people, including many small children, prompting the government to embark on an unprecedented mobile vaccination program. A state of emergency has been declared for 48 hours and authorities are urging people no to leave their homes. (Photo by Chikara Yoshida/Getty Images)

The Samoan government officially declared a state of emergency on Nov. 15, closed schools on Nov. 17 and began a mass vaccination campaign on Nov. 20, according to CNN.

Families with members who have not been vaccinated were mandated to hang red flags in front of their houses for the two-day lockdown.

APIA, SAMOA – DECEMBER 5: Red flags are seen hanging outside of homes of Apia residents indicating they have not been vaccinated for measles on December 5, 2019 in Apia, Samoa. A measles outbreak in Samoa has killed 62 people, including many small children, prompting the government to embark on an unprecedented mobile vaccination program. A state of emergency has been declared for 48 hours and authorities are urging people no to leave their homes. (Photo by Chikara Yoshida/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, all civil servants — except those responsible for electricity and water supply — were required to assist public health officials in the vaccine drive.

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“It’s very, very quiet out here. I can just hear a few barking dogs. The streets are empty. There are no cars,” Sheldon Yett, UNICEF’s Pacific islands chief, told AFP. “People are staying at home waiting for the vaccination campaign. The teams are getting their supplies together and getting ready to go out.”

APIA, SAMOA – DECEMBER 5: Red flags are seen hanging outside of homes of Apia residents indicating they have not been vaccinated for measles on December 5, 2019 in Apia, Samoa. A measles outbreak in Samoa has killed 62 people, including many small children, prompting the government to embark on an unprecedented mobile vaccination program. A state of emergency has been declared for 48 hours and authorities are urging people no to leave their homes. (Photo by Chikara Yoshida/Getty Images)

The government recorded a total of 165 cases in the last 24 hours on Thursday, two of which joined the death toll. Of the deceased, 54 were children aged 4 and below.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said that the vaccine drive was unprecedented in the history of the nation, which currently has a population of about 200,000.

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APIA, SAMOA – DECEMBER 5: Red flags are seen hanging outside of homes of Apia residents indicating they have not been vaccinated for measles on December 5, 2019 in Apia, Samoa. A measles outbreak in Samoa has killed 62 people, including many small children, prompting the government to embark on an unprecedented mobile vaccination program. A state of emergency has been declared for 48 hours and authorities are urging people no to leave their homes. (Photo by Chikara Yoshida/Getty Images)

“They seem to take a kind of lackadaisical attitude to all the warnings that we had issued through the television and also through the radio,” he said of the population, according to the Associated Press.

Some also resort to seeking help from traditional healers, who happen to have helped treat common diseases in the country for thousands of years.

“Some of our people pay a visit to traditional healers thinking that measles is a typical tropical disease, which it is not,” the prime minister added.

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Measles is a highly contagious disease transmitted via droplets from the nose, mouth or throat of infected persons.

Despite the availability of an effective vaccine, it remains a major cause of death among young children worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

The vaccine against measles, part of combination that fights mumps and rubella (MMR), provides full protection in about two or three weeks, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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“Our people are more conscious now than before that having your children vaccinated is the only way,” Malielegaoi told Al Jazeera.

Feature Image (left) via Getty, (right) via World Health Organization Western Pacific

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