New Zealand Defence Force supporting Samoan measles epidemic response

On Friday, following an urgent request from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) C-130 Hercules aircraft took an oxygen generator, oxygen compressors, condensers and bottles to Samoa.

The aircraft and crew then flew to Nadi in Fiji to pick up 50,000 measles and rubella vaccines provided by UNICEF for the Samoan Government’s vaccination programme.

Small Pacific states brace for measles spread

As the Pacific grapples with a deadly measles outbreak originating in New Zealand, some of the region's smallest states are seeing their health systems put under increasing strain before the disease even reaches their shores.

Already, measles has spread to Fiji, Tonga and Samoa.

Health authorities in Samoa say they have registered seven deaths suspected to have been caused by the measles virus.

Now, there are fears its spread to other countries in the region could be only a matter of time.

Samoans urged to keep vaccinating children

Earlier this month a pair of one-year old infants died shortly after being given the MMR vaccination at a hospital on Savaii.

A post mortem has been completed, with results expected to be released within days.

Health investigations are also ongoing, while a police inquest is scheduled to take place next week.

Dr Ananda Amarasinghe of the World Health Organisaion's Western Pacific division was in Samoa and says MMR vaccine fatalities are extremely rare.