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As child measles deaths mount in Samoa, anti-vax movement being blamed for outbreak


Samoan families whose children are seriously ill with measles are turning to alternative means of treatment, and that’s worrying health authorities.

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Some with severely sick children are turning to alternative treatment, sparking major concerns, 1 NEWS Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver reports. Source: 1 NEWS

There have been eight suspected measles deaths but many more children are in critical condition.

The anti-vax movement is being blamed for low immunisation rates in Samoa, and it is claimed US officials helped facilitate this.

1 NEWS has learned of a high-level anti vax meeting organised in Samoa in June, shortly before the deadly measles outbreak.

A US Embassy staff member facilitated a meeting between vaccination critic Robert Kennedy Jnr, invited to Samoa for its independence celebrations, and Australian anti vax blogger Taylor Winterstein.

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She’d been forced to cancel seminars in Samoa after being called a public health threat, but came anyway, publicising her meeting with the high-profile Kennedy as profoundly monumental for her movement.

“The anti vax has made it worse,” said Samoa director general of health Laeusa Take Naseri.

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Meawhile, locals are also visiting traditional healers, desperate to ease the suffering of their young ones.

“This is where our strength comes from and we are highly confident everything we do will work,” said Vaelupemua Suluape, Samoa Taulasea Society President. 

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There have been eight suspected measles deaths so far – all but one of them a child. Source: 1 NEWS

Some healers in Apia aren’t charging for their services.

They are allowed in hospital if they have certification from the government and the parents want them, but some in the medical profession have concerns.

“I would never encourage them to take them to a traditional healer and give them medications we don’t know what dose it is, we don’t know what ingredient it is, and it may compromise the child’s immune system," said Dr Naseri.