Samoa’s mass vaccination effort continues as hospitals are overrun with patients

Samoa’s mass vaccination effort continues as hospitals are overrun with measles patients

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - At day break Friday, more than 100 medical teams gathered outside the hospital is Samoa’s capital city of Apia, loading up vans with medical supplies.

Everyone was eager to get on the road and start work. The teams traveled door-to-door.

Red flags hung outside hundreds of homes across the country ― sign that people who live there need the measles vaccines.

“They have their protocol and they’d like us gowned up for infection control,” said Dr. Nadine Tenn Salle, chief of pediatrics at the Queens Medical Center. “We’re all immunized here. So this is a second layer of protection.”

Salle is part of a 70-person team from Hawaii that spent the past 48 hours traveling from village to village, administering vaccines to anyone who wanted it.

“Little sting,” she said, as she immunized a young man living in Leulumoega village. “Ok. Good. And we’re done.”

On the second day of outreach, the teams were started coming across a growing number of people who had recently been vaccinated.

Lealao Leifi said only three adults in her family needed the vaccine, “All the kids have done it.”

Meantime, clinics are still overrun with patients.

“Normally this is an eight-bed facility,” said Tori Prendergast. The nurse is a part of New Zealand’s Medical Assistance Team helping to staff Leulumoega Hospital. Located on the outskirts of Apia Prendergast says they’re treated up to 90 people a day.

Although busy, she says they are starting to see an encouraging shift -- people coming in earlier for help.

But not everyone: “We’re unfortunately still seeing patients coming in later stages of the disease as well and they are critically unwell,” said Prendergast. “And we’re having to send them straight to TTM (hospital) to have their breathing supported.”

“I just want it to end,” said Jojo Otto, after she received a vaccination. “It’s very sad as well. Seeing our little ones being taken by this deadly disease.”

An early tally of the numbers shows since Nov. 20, 117,996 people have been vaccinated across Samoa. Nearly 34,000 were administered in the past two days.

Heath officials say with that kind of coverage there should be a plateau in the number of new cases in the coming weeks.

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