Samoa arrests anti-vaxxer amid measles epidemic

Local residents wait to be vaccinated at a Red Cross facility in Apia Samoa

Local residents wait to be vaccinated at a Red Cross facility in Apia Samoa

"It's quite clear that they have a corporate responsibility to step up to the plate and make sure that populations, particularly vulnerable populations, get accurate information that's going to keep children alive", he said.

Edwin Tamasese was charged with incitement against a government order after he was detained on Thursday.

Samoa's low vaccination charges are partially because of the deaths in 2018 of two kids wrongly being attributed to vaccination in opposition to measles, mumps and rubella.

"The anti-vaxxers unfortunately have been slowing us down", he told TVNZ.

Authorities said Tamasese had been warned about his activities before, but he posted a message on social media about the vaccination campaign saying: "I will be here to clean up your disaster".

The government has special powers after declaring a state of emergency to deal with the measles crisis and the Samoa Observer reported that Tamasese could face two years in jail.

He warned anti-vaccine campaigners: "Do not get in the way in which, do not contribute to the deaths". The group says people advocating against vaccines have made the fight against measles more hard. People were advised to obey a dawn-to-dusk curfew, staying in their homes and displaying a red flag if any occupants were not yet immunized.

Samoa on Friday entered the second day of a lockdown as it administers compulsory vaccinations.

The health ministry reported on Friday morning 140 new cases over the previous 24 hours. The death toll crept up by one to 63, with 55 of the fatalities aged four or under.

According to the government, more than 4,000 people have contracted the disease since the outbreak began and 172 people remain in hospitals, including 19 children in critical condition.

Infants are the most vulnerable to measles, which typically causes a rash and fever but can also lead to brain damage and death.

The current crisis in Samoa has also triggered many foreign anti-vaccination campaigners to weigh in and criticising the country's drive to immunise its children, which is trying lift the level of measles vaccination coverage to more than 90%.

Unicef's regional chief told AFP on Thursday that social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter were "incredibly irresponsible" for allowing the misinformation to spread on their platforms.

Global teams have been deployed to assist the Samoan government with their mass vaccination programme with crews from America, Britain, Australia and New Zealand on the ground in Samoa.

In response it had launched an appeal, organised by the United Nations, to receive financial aid from partnering countries, including New Zealand, in its effort to stop the spread of the disease.

Shortages in institutional capacities to respond to the outbreak were evident in nearly all areas of the health sector, the prime minister said, emphasising the need to build depth in not just the clinical side but also technical, allied health and equally important psychosocial services.

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