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Three thousand measles vaccines and a dozen New Zealand nurses are being sent to Samoa to assist in containing a “serious and growing outbreak” gripping the island nation.
Foreign Minister Winston Peters announced the further support for Samoa on Friday morning. Three people were thought to have died from measles in the Pacific Island nation.
Peters said the support had been requested by the Samoan government.
MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccines and nurses are being sent to Samoa from New Zealand.
The first nurses, who would administer vaccinations, would arrive in Samoa on Wednesday, with other nurses working on rotation over the coming weeks.
Measles is highly contagious and is spread through coughing and sneezing. The virus can live for up to two hours in the air and a single case can infect a further 12 to 18 others on average.
However, it is largely preventable through two doses of the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine.
Peters said 3000 MMR vaccines were due to arrive in Samoa next week.
New Zealand had already responded to earlier requests from Samoa for medical supplies, including face masks, gowns, hand sanitiser and stretcher-beds, Peters said.
Pharmaceutical fridges had also been sent over to preserve the efficacy of the vaccines.
Immunologist Dr Helen Petousis-Harris said many of the Pacific nations had quite good immunisation coverage, comparable to New Zealand.
However, this was not the case for Samoa, which had one of the poorest uptakes of measles vaccine in the world, she said.
Petousis-Harris said experts knew that New Zealand has exported measles to the Pacific Islands, and it would “be easily imported back”.
“Given we have not yet dealt with our own immunity gaps we cannot get complacent.”
New Zealand is facing its worst measles outbreak in more than two decades, with more than 2000 confirmed cases so far.
More than 1300 cases in New Zealand were in those who had not been vaccinated. A further 464 people did not know their vaccination status.
SOURCE: STUFF NZ/PACNEWS
Pacific Islands News Association
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