Samoa measles outbreak

This item appears on page 19 of the February 2020 issue.

The Pacific island nation of Samoa (not to be confused with neighboring American Samoa, a US territory) declared a state of emergency on Nov. 16 due to an outbreak of measles, with more than 5,000 people infected (out of a population of 200,000) and 72 deaths, mostly infants. The state of emergency ended on Dec. 27.

The outbreak was blamed on influential local healers who had recommended that people not vaccinate their children, instead offering natural cures. One such person was arrested on Dec. 6 for spreading false propaganda about vaccines on Facebook.

After the outbreak began, Samoa made vaccinations mandatory. New Zealand is assisting the country by providing vaccines to make up for shortages in Samoa.