Samoa Bans Kids from Church as Measles Outbreak Kills 63

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Advent will be “mellow” on South Pacific island as government restricts public gatherings amid vaccination campaign.

Children in Samoa have been temporarily banned from attending church services and other public gatherings, due to a growing measles outbreak that has claimed more than 60 lives and threatens to cancel Advent celebrations.

The government of the South Pacific island nation was closed today and yesterday, as officials and public health workers turned all their attention to an immunization campaign.

Prior to the outbreak, less than a third (31%) of the island’s population of about 200,000 were protected by a measles vaccine, according to Reuters. After cases were reported and a national emergency was declared in mid-November, nearly another third received immunizations in the following two weeks.

As of yesterday (Dec. 5), 82 percent of infants and children up to 4 years old have been vaccinated, along with 93 percent of those between 5 and 19 years old.

Even so, more than 4,300 Samoans have been diagnosed with measles and at least 63 have died. Of those, all but 3 were children; 55 were 4 years old or younger. About 20 more children are in critical condition.

In a nation where many are not vaccinated, the prime minister made it clear that Christian leaders are needed to encourage their countrymen to get vaccinated.

“The government needs the support of all the village councils, faith-based organizations, and church leaders, village mayors, and government women representatives,” said Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi in a state address last Sunday. “Let us work together to encourage and convince those that do not believe that vaccinations are the only answer to the epidemic. Let us not be distracted by the promise of alternative cures.”

Indeed, many Samoans had never received childhood immunizations, either out …

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