The festering anti-vaccination movement in the United States is giving doctors and health officials a headache, but things are even worse on the island nation of Samoa. As of last week, over 2,600 confirmed cases of measles had been recorded, and 33 people had died, most of them being young children. Things have somehow gotten even worse in the days since.
As CNN reports, the government of Samoa will actually shut down later this week in an effort to focus all available resources on the epidemic ravaging the isolated island nation. The death toll currently stands at 53, and 48 of the victims were children under the age of 4.
The situation in Samoa is unique and somewhat bizarre. Early last year, two children died shortly after receiving the standard vaccines that would have protected them against measles, forcing the government to pause its vaccination program in order to investigate. It was eventually determined that a completely different medication, improperly administered, had caused the deaths of the children, but by that point, many children had already gone unvaccinated and parents remained fearful.
Health officials believe it was this large boom in unvaccinated children that has allowed the disease to spread like wildfire across the country. The fact that so many kids, particularly young children, have fallen victim to this recent epidemic supports that notion, and the government is scrambling to solve the problem.
Samoa has seen an outpouring of support from other countries and is in the process of receiving hundreds of thousands of doses of the measles vaccine from its neighbors. Schools across Samoa have been shut down for weeks already, and officials are hopeful that the government shutdown later this week will allow for a country-wide focus on vaccinations and treatment of those who are already infected.