TODAY |

Samoan towns resemble ghost town as mass vaccination campaign gets underway


It's early on a Thursday morning, the sun is just up and teams are forming, gathering large plastic containers with the MMR vaccine inside and jumping into utes and vans that will make their way across Samoa.

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Roads are closed and businesses shut as the government ramps up its measles vaccination efforts. Source: 1 NEWS

Loud speakers and police sirens announce the arrival of medical teams on deserted streets, looking for residents who are unvaccinated.

Red flags, t-shirts and cloths are tied around trees and posts indicating to the teams travelling down the streets of Samoa that they are waiting to be vaccinated.

It's the first day of a monumental 48 hours for the Samoan people after a government shutdown was announced earlier this week.

All public services and private businesses, schools and roads were to be closed from 7am-5pm on Thursday and Friday.

The reason? To reach as many people as possible in two days to give them a fighting case against a growing measles epidemic.

The streets in Apia turned into a ghost town today as local residents obeyed government orders to stay home while the mass immunisation campaign was carried out.

For weeks, Samoa has been battling the deepening measles crisis, which has claimed over 60 lives and infected thousands more.

A state of emergency had to be called and dozens of countries sent medical personnel over to help stem the tide of the disease gripping the nation.

Now compulsory, residents took heed of the calls to be inoculated and slowly emerged from their homes as the teams arrived through out the day.

At some mobile vaccination points, people lined up to be seen by a nurse. Residents were given an injection and then marked on their left hand to indicate that they had received a vaccine.

Before the deadly outbreak, only 41 per cent of Samoans were immunised against measles.

After today's efforts, it's hoped thousands more will be protected against the highly infectious disease.

The shut-down and mass immunisation campaign will begin again tomorrow morning at 7am local time.