P.M. explains extension of state of emergency
The measles crisis state of emergency has been extended until the 29th December 2019.
With the epidemic having already claimed 72 lives, the Government wants to hit the 100 per cent target for M.M.R. vaccination.
The decision was announced by Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, at his office, minutes after Cabinet met and endorsed the recommendation on Saturday.
“To date the vaccination campaign has reached 92 percent," Tuilaepa said.
"The eight percent left amounts to 16,000 of those that have not been vaccinated; hence the decision made today. The safety of the public is paramount to Cabinet and the Disaster Advisory Committee."
The Prime Minister said the Government's goal is that by the end of the vaccination campaign, the chances for measles to resurface and claim this many lives will be "minimal."
The state of emergency was first declared on 15th November 2019.
At the time, only six people had been killed by the disease. That number had since jumped to 72, with more than 5,000 people diagnosed.
Between Friday and Saturday , there were no measles-related fatalities. The number of new cases recorded stood at 74.
It was the second day in a row without a death.
The Prime Minister said their decision was based on the recommendation by the Chairman of the Disaster Advisory Committee, Ulu Bismarck Crawley.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Ulu said it is important to carry out the vaccination until the entire country is covered.
“We will not leave any rocks unturned, that I can tell you," he said.
"The recommendation was based on analysis and data provided by the Ministry of Health and mainly for the protection of our people.”
He said close to 20,000 have not been vaccination that is not a small number and that means the job is not yet finished.
“Measles is highly contagious and we must do what is right. Just yesterday (Friday) the vaccination teams were sent out to a family of 20, not one person from that family was vaccinated; from the adults to the babies. It is sad to know there are families that are taking this seriously yet lives have been taken,” he said.
He said the vaccination data so far started from 1 October 2019 when the M.O.H. started mobilizing their vaccination teams.
“The data so far was collected from the first of October and it includes the two days of the mass vaccination and the program hasn’t stopped since then, it will continue until Samoa is 100 percent immunized,” he said.
According to the Prime Minister, one High Chief confidently said their entire village has been vaccinated and his response was based on his “belief” and not action.
“The Village Mayors should go to each and every family in their village to thoroughly check especially families living inland and there are families with up to three children that have not been vaccinated.”
Prime Minister explained 579 children under 19 that have not been vaccinated and the additional details of the S.O.E. will be announced later.
He also appealed to the clergy and village leaders to assist the government and find out if there are any families that have not been vaccinated.
“Pregnant mothers and babies up to six months are still vulnerable.
“The measles complication of pneumonia is why it is important for the government to continue the vaccination program.
“We shouldn’t be content with the recent data indicating the measles has slowed down; we must still be vigilant,” he said.
Meanwhile the Minister of Health and the Director General of Health will be exercising the special powers under the law and will level penalty of members of the public that violates Infectious Diseases’ of the Health Ordinance 1959.
“The public is informed that due to the measles outbreak in Samoa, the Minister of Health and the Director General of Health, will be exercising the special powers under Part 4: ‘Infectious Diseases’ of the Health Ordinance 1959. Inclusive in these special powers are the powers to:
(1) require persons to report themselves or submit themselves for medical examination at specified times and places; and
(2) forbid persons to leave the place in which they are isolated or quarantined until they have been medically examined and found to be free from the infectious disease, and until they have undergone such preventative treatment as the Director General of Health may prescribe.
Penalties for non-compliance:
(i) a fine of up to $200, and $200 for each day of the offence; and
(ii) arrest without a warrant and returned to the hospital, or the place of isolation/quarantine.
A separate charge and penalty may arise under section 37 ‘Offences in respect of infectious’ diseases’.