Lifting of state of emergency likely — P.M. Tuilaepa

The state of emergency order in Samoa in response to the measles epidemic is likely to be lifted 30 days after its proclamation, says Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi.

That would mean the current emergency measures expire next Monday, December 16.

Tuilaepa said the final decision on whether to lift the state of emergency will be made this Saturday once Cabinet meets to discuss the measles situation in the country. 

He said the final say on the matter will follow input from doctors at hospitals in the country. 

During a press conference on Thursday, Tuilaepa said the general feeling is the epidemic is slowly “calming down”. 

Following the door-to-door vaccination last week that involved a two-day government shutdown, the National Emergency Operation Centre reported on Thursday that 93 per cent of the target population has received immunisation.

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But the Prime Minister is optimistic that the percentage will only continue to climb and said the Government was targeting a final of 95 to 98 per cent.

He acknowledged the outreach programme is still continuing to vaccinate people.

Although the more than 40,000 people were vaccinated during the door-to-door immunisation campaign last week, there is still another week until the vaccination becomes effective, Tuilaepa said, despite the risk being low. 

“It takes about two to three weeks for the vaccine to be effective but the risk is a lot less," he said.

The World Health Organisation estimated that in 2018 only 31 per cent of infants in Samoa received the routine measles, mumps and rubella (M.M.R.) vaccine, which was a drop in coverage from nearly 60 per cent the previous year. 

The disease can lead to serious complications and death, especially among children.

The low immunisation rate in the country left unvaccinated children extremely vulnerable when the measles outbreak struck Samoa.

The Prime Minister said that the distrust goes back to “human error” in July last year when two nurses improperly prepared the injection that cost the lives of two children.

The two nurses are currently serving time in prison for 5 years and 6 months respectively. 

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