New Zealand will contribute $1 million to a joint UNICEF and WHO fund to continue fighting measles in the Pacific, Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters announced yesterday.
Mr Peters, who is currently in Samoa, said the country’s contribution to the Pacific Regional Action Plan for Measles will help with the plan’s early interventions to prevent further outbreaks.
“Prevention through vaccination is the most effective way of avoiding illness and a costly health emergency,” he said.
“This plan offers immediate preventative action. It allows for the flexibility to respond to additional requests from other Pacific nations and offers an efficient way of working regionally.”
The action plan includes targeted vaccination for children up to the age of 5 years of age, supplementary vaccine doses for new mothers and their families to protect babies too young to be vaccinated and increased measles surveillance, public health and epidemiology support to countries most at risk.
The funding is complementary to the $200,000 for Fiji’s current mass vaccination campaign, support for vaccinations in Tonga and the financial, material and personnel support in response to Samoa’s measles outbreak.
The announcement comes alongside the Government of Samoa declaring yesterday the country’s state of emergency will be extended until December 29. The state of emergency began on November 15.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said the extension will allow for further vaccinations.
Approximately 93 per cent of all eligible people in Samoa have been vaccinated against measles, the Samoan government said.
The extended state of emergency will mean children under 14 cannot be at public gatherings, reduced from previous restrictions for those under the age of 19. All children under 14 will also require proof of immunisation to travel between islands.
Since the measles outbreak started, Samoa’s Ministry of Health has confirmed 5154 measles cases.
The Samoan government also confirmed yesterday 74 of those cases were recorded in the last 24 hours.
Measles has killed 72 people in Samoa since October. Only 16 per cent of Samoans had both doses of the measles vaccine last year.