Sydney, – Samoa started a door-to-door vaccination campaign on Thursday in response to a measles outbreak that has claimed 62 lives so far.
A two-day shutdown of public services, commerce and road networks came into force, with private vehicles banned from roads for much of the day, Radio New Zealand (RNZ) reported.
As of Thursday, 4,217 cases of measles had been reported, the government of Samoa said in a Facebook post.
Officials had asked unvaccinated residents to hang red flags outside their homes to help the campaign.
Some 70 healthcare professionals arrived on the tiny Pacific island from the U.S. state of Hawaii, with the World Health Organisation and USAID helping to coordinate, Samoa’s government said.
Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said most of the villages in outlying communities were reached on the first day, and on Friday the focus would move to more populated cities and surrounding areas.
The government said in a statement posted to Facebook late on Thursday that 100 teams had scattered across Upolu, one of the two main islands, throughout the day with the aim to administer 10,000 doses.
They did not update what target was reached, but cited the most recent data from Wednesday, saying so far 71 per cent of Samoa’s population had been vaccinated so far.
The prime minister said he would not settle for an immunisation coverage of less than 90 per cent.
According to RNZ, the measles outbreak in the Pacific is believed to have originated in New Zealand, but has now affected other countries, including in Fiji and Tonga.
Samoa has been hit the hardest due to low vaccination rates, which ranged between 28 and 40 per cent when the outbreak started in mid-November, according to UNICEF.