A new measles outbreak in Fiji has infected 19 people, including a 9-month-old child.
This is on the heels of outbreaks in Samoa and American Samoa, where the virus has killed 72 people. Hawaii Lieutenant Governor Josh Green recently returned from a trip to Samoa with nearly 80 medical professionals to give aid and vaccinations.
“We gave 33,997 vaccinations in 48 hours with the teams from Samoa and a couple of other international groups, and they’ve seen it decline like a precipitous decline now in cases and deaths.” Dr. Green, who is also a physician, said.
Dr. Green was helped by many organizations to fund the trip, which he says didn’t use any taxpayer money. One of those was Hawaiian Airlines, which has also granted waivers to customers with flights booked to American Samoa. Dr. Green recommends not traveling to either location at this time.
“If you’re not totally immune you shouldn’t go to any of these places because you can bring back disease.” Dr. Green warned.
Samoa’s vaccination rates have declined rapidly since an incident in 2018 when a pair of two-year-old children were killed when a Mumps Measles-Rubella vaccine they were administered was improperly mixed with muscle relaxants.
In regards to the disease spreading to Hawaii, Dr. Green says that the Center for Disease Control and World Health Organization are in contact with him every few hours and monitoring closely. He believes that Hawaii’s herd immunity from vaccinations helps fight an outbreak.
“We are a pretty well-vaccinated state.” Dr. Green said.
“There are some pockets where we have inadequate vaccination, but in our state, we have herd immunity as well because most people are vaccinated so we get the extra vaccination protection.”
Infants aren’t able to get vaccinated from measles until they are 6 months old at the earliest, and are most at risk from complications. Dr. Green says that many who choose not to vaccinate are taking a big risk to themselves and their children, as well as the safety of others.
“I would say please in this era it’s not going to be terrorism that takes us down god forbid it’s going to be a huge epidemic. I do believe people should get vaccinations. It’s the right thing to do.”