Samoa’s government said Monday that another five children had died within the past day from a measles outbreak, bringing the death toll from the epidemic to more than 50 as authorities race to vaccinate the entire population, the AP reports. Samoa declared a national emergency last month and mandated that all 200,000 people living on the South Pacific island nation get vaccinated. The government has closed all schools and banned children from public gatherings. In all, 53 people have died in the outbreak since late October, including one adult and two older teenagers. Most of those who have died have been babies and young infants, including 23 children aged less than 1 and 25 children aged between 1 and 4.
The government said more than 1,100 people have been admitted to hospitals since the outbreak began and about 180 people remain hospitalized. Among those hospitalized are 19 children who are in critical condition. Samoan authorities believe the virus was first spread by a traveler from New Zealand. Figures from the World Health Organization and UNICEF indicate that fewer than 30% of Samoan infants were immunized last year. That low rate was exacerbated by a medical mishap that killed two babies who were administered a vaccine that had been incorrectly mixed, causing wider delays and distrust in the vaccination program. The government said about 33,000 people were vaccinated before last month and since then, another 58,000 people have been vaccinated.
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