Pacific / Samoa

UNICEF hits out at anti-vaxxers over 'dangerous' message

05:14 am on 13 December 2019

UNICEF has hit out at online measles anti-vaxxers saying their message has the potential to kill vulnerable children.

Photo: RNZ / Logan Church

That comment from UNICEF Pacific representative, Sheldon Yett, comes as Samoa's government reports that measles has now claimed the lives of 72 people- since the outbreak began in October.

The government today said 4995 measles cases had been reported since the outbreak, with 75 cases recorded in the past 24 hours.

UNICEF is the world's largest procurer of vaccines for preventable diseases, including the Measles Mumps and Rubella or MMR.

UNICEF Pacific representative, Sheldon Yett. Photo: Twitter / Sheldon Yett

Mr Yett said Samoa's national emergency immunisation campaign had been very successful with 93 percent coverage now established.

But online social media negativity from those against vaccination was unhelpful and dangerous, Mr Yett said.

"It's extremely counter productive. It kills children. I mean, we need to make sure that people have the right facts, and that people understand that there are no magic bullets and silver bullets in the world.

"But vaccines are the closest thing to them. They are the best way to ensure that children grow up to be healthy and fully contributing to their countries."

Mr Yett said he was concerned for the entire Pacific region as measles was just a plane flight away and all Pacific countries must take the necessary steps to address any outbreaks.

Meanwhile, there are now 19 confirmed cases of measles in Fiji.

The latest case is a nine-month-old from Rewa.

The Ministry of Health said the infant was admitted to the main Suva hospital and was now in a stable condition in isolation.

Measles vaccinations underway in Fiji. Photo: Facebook / Fiji Ministry of Health and Medical Services

New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters and Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio are going to Samoa tomorrow in response to the measles outbreak.

Mr Peters says New Zealand is committed to supporting Samoa through the crisis and has sent several medical teams since 20 November.

New Zealand also funded 100,000 measles and rubella (MR) vaccines and 15,000 measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccines.

Other support includes providing an oxygen production machine, vaccination fridges, face masks, gowns, hand sanitiser and stretcher beds.