Measles peak possible but unlikely, doctor warns

The Vice-Chancellor for the Samoa Oceania University of Medicine, Toleafoa  Dr. Viali Lameko, would like to be cautiously optimistic that the measles epidemic could have reached its peak. 

But he warns the public and the Government against making such assumptions and behaving complacently; vaccinations, he says, must continue. 

“The new cases of measles in Samoa have statistically and epidemiologically reduced,” he said in an interview with the Samoa Observer. 

There has been no shortage of speculation about when the viral wave that has swept through Samoa for the past two months has peaked. 

Toleafoa notes that new cases in the last 24 hours have reduced from averages of 150 to 140, to 103.

But Toleafoa said that is “highly unlikely” that the total will now drop to a negligible amount, despite the success of the Government's door-to-door vaccination campaign, which health authorities credited with carrying out up to 40,000 vaccinations. 

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On Saturday evening, the Government declared that a total of 89 per cent of Samoa's population had now been vaccinated, or just shy of the 90 per cent minimum target announced by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi last week.

However, Toleafoa warned that members of the public should be cautious, especially those that were vaccinated as it takes up to 14 days before the vaccination is active in the body. 

He noted that more work needs to be done. 

It is estimated by international health bodies that up to 95 per cent of a population must be vaccinated, in order to achieve "herd immunity" whereby infections stop spreading through a population. 

“We must continue with the vaccination program, isolation of new cases, and treating the cases with complications being admitted to health facilities around the country. Not time yet to relax," he said. 

He said there is a need for concerted efforts until the numbers are no longer a threat to the health of the population, especially the vulnerable age groups. 

He said that the speed with which the death toll from the virus had escalated to such high levels (an epidemic of which was declared in mid-October) has inspired several different theories about how the virus came to impact certain demographic, especially those under four years old.

“As an Australian uni trained public health physician, and as a public health specialist at the Samoa [Ministry of Health] in the previous years, I also have my own theories too, but I will keep [them] to myself.” 

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