All but four of the deaths are children – under the age of four – including one who died in the past day.
About 200 people with the disease remain in hospital.
A mass vaccination campaign is underway and dozens of New Zealand nurses are in Samoa to assist. . .
. . . Ease of travel, particularly international, and immunity gaps within New Zealand meant the epidemic was not surprising, Immunisation Advisory Centre director Nikki Turner said.
In a report published in The New Zealand Medical Journal on Friday, Turner said more action was needed to ensure better protection for the community and the elimination of measles.
Some of those steps included resourcing a national campaign targeting adolescents and young adults; the adequacy of vaccine supply and accessibility including more use of pharmacies and pop-up clinics; and support for front-line workers.
There was a risk to both New Zealand and Pacific populations and the epidemic indicated the country’s immunisation programme fell short. The health sector’s response needed to be strengthened, the report said.
“With multiple imports and more than 12 recognised outbreaks in the first five months of this year affecting most regions, this should appropriately be called an epidemic,” Turner said. . .
Otago University, Wellington Department of Public Health professor Michael Baker said the only way to contain an epidemic was to rapidly fill the immunity gap.
It would be a “very responsible step” for the country to consider extreme measures that prevented the transmission of measles, particularly to the Pacific. . .
The epidemics in New Zealand and Samoa and the deaths that have resulted were preventable.
It started when someone who was infected travelled to New Zealand and spread the disease here and a traveller probably took it to Samoa.
New Zealand’s immunisation rate wasn’t high enough for herd immunity and Samoa’s was far lower.
Europeans brought diseases to the Pacific Islands more than 200 years ago. They had the excuse that they didn’t know the dangers and they didn’t have vaccinations.
That excuse cannot be used in the 21st century, especially when a preventable disease has already cost 33 lives.