Dec. 14 (UPI) — The Samoan government announced Saturday that it has extended a state of emergency meant to contain an active measles epidemic that has sickened 5,100 people and killed 72.
Until Dec. 29 children up to the age of 14 years must show proof of immunization in order to board any inter-island ferry in Samoa, according to the government’s Facebook page. Children under 14 are also prohibited from attending public gatherings in the island nation.
According to the United Nations, 2 percent of island residents have contracted measles, and most of those who have died have been under 5 years old, CBS News reported.
Thirty-one percent of Samoans were vaccinated against measles when the outbreak was declared in October.
The vaccine is now mandatory in Samoa, and as of Friday, according to a tweet from the government, that vaccination rate has climbed to 93 percent.
As part of a dedicated campaign to increase vaccination rates, the government sent medical teams house-to-house with vaccinations and urged families to hang red flags outside their homes to signify that some or all household members were not vaccinated.
On Tuesday the United Nations announced it would release $2.6 million — a fraction of the $10.7 million Samoa asked for earlier in December — in aid to help contain the outbreak. New Zealand has also pledged $640,700 in aid and has also offered logistical support in delivering the vaccines.
In January the World Health Organization declared the anti-vaccination movement one of the top threats to global health. On Dec. 5 WHO and the CDC said the rate of measles infection worldwide increased by 30 percent year-to-year from 2017 to 2018.