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News note on measles outbreak in the Pacific

UNICEF is supporting the Government of Samoa to respond to a measles outbreak in the country. The Government of Samoa officially declared a state of emergency on 15 November 2019, four weeks into the continuing measles outbreak with more than 1000 suspected cases so far. The epidemic has claimed the lives of 14 children under-five years old and one adult.

Measles outbreaks were also declared in the Kingdom of Tonga on 24 October and in Fiji on 7 November. As of 5 November, 177 cases have been confirmed in Tonga with no deaths. In Fiji, the four confirmed and one suspected cases were contained in one specific area of Namosi and Serua Subdivision, west of the capital of Suva.

UNICEF has deployed health and communication staff in Samoa to boost the government’s immunization campaign and delivered a total of 110,500 doses of measles containing vaccines (100,000 MR and 10,500 MMR) and 30, 000 Vitamin A tablets. In addition, 6 refrigerators and three emergency response trolleys used as immunization service stations are being shipped to Samoa.

UNICEF has also delivered vaccines to Tonga, Fiji and Niue, and has worked with the governments of Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Cook Islands, Niue, Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) in conducting their measles immunization campaigns and developing their preparedness plans for an outbreak.

UNICEF and the World Health Organisation jointly prepared a communication toolkit and resources for measles prevention, which was immediately shared with Samoa, Tonga and Fiji, as the first Pacific Island Countries affected by the measles outbreak.

• Measles coverage in Samoa in 2018 was 40% for the first dose and 28% for the second dose.
• UNICEF is working closely with the Ministry of Health and WHO in Samoa to target children 6 months to 19 years of age and women who are not pregnant between 20-35 years.
• All schools have also been temporarily closed in Samoa and children under 17 years old have been advised by Government not to attend public gatherings to contain the spread of the disease.
• In Tonga, health officials advise that they have previously achieved herd immunity for measles.
• Tonga had a 99% coverage of measles vaccinations in 2018. To further contain the outbreak, the Tongan Government announced the temporary closure of all government primary schools from 14 to 25 November.
• Fiji has a measles coverage of 81% for the first dose in 2018 based on available data.

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