At least 50 children killed by measles in Samoa as outbreak worsens

Red Cross volunteers in Samoa

A fishing boat is seen in the early morning near Taumeasina Island Resort in Apia, Samoa on September 8, 2017.

The death toll from a measles outbreak in Samoa has increased to 53, after five children died from the infection the day before, while authorities step up efforts to vaccinate the entire population against the deadly disease. Most of those who have died have been babies and young infants, including 23 children aged less than one, and 25 children aged between one and four.

Kate O'Brien, director of the WHO's immunization department, said in Geneva that "very cheap coverage of measles vaccine" was to blame for the rapid expanse of the highly contagious in the nation.

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned in October of the devastating return of measles epidemics worldwide, as the number of reported cases increased by 300 percent in the first three months of this year.

Samoa's Prime Minister has announced a government shutdown in response to the measles epidemic that has claimed the lives of 53 people in the Pacific island nation.

"It's about being a good global citizen really, in that we all have to do our bit", said Petousis-Harris. The deaths were later found to have been caused by medications that were wrongly mixed.

The government began a its Mass Vaccination Campaign on November 20, with 57,132 vaccinated as of Sunday.

To achieve the goal, he said government services and departments would close on Thursday and Friday this week in order to allow all public servants to assist with the mass vaccination campaign throughout the country.

Neighbouring New Zealand and a number of other countries and organisations, including the United Nations agency Unicef, have delivered thousands of vaccines, medical supplies and have sent medical personnel to help with the outbreak.

The government in Tonga attributed a recent outbreak of measles in the small Pacific island community to a squad of rugby players returning from New Zealand, although higher vaccination rates in Tonga - and in neighbouring Fiji - have helped stem the outbreak.

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